Feb 28, 2010

It followed me home...

Last time I was at the gun shop - perhaps a month ago - I fondled a S&W Model 67 (no dash) that had been lying in the case for better than a year. It was in good shape and priced pretty well. I left it there then but decided it'd be a good acquisition at some point. That point came today.

I tried to talk the shop guy down a little bit, but it's a consignment from an estate, the executor isn't a rush for money and hates returning calls. Also, this dealer is my favorite and I'd rather not cause him too many headaches, and a few hours of work over $25 qualifies as a headache in my book.

Serial dates it to 1973, pinned barrel, easy 95%+ and will be pushing 98% with a little bit of Flitz and some Hoppes. Lock-up is the tightest I have EVER seen on a wheelgun. Trigger is great SA, little gritty DA - probably needs to be hosed out. The grips are fugly yellow plastic things, and will be replaced at some point, when funds allow. I'm leaning towards birds-eye maple magna-style grips. A few minor differences between this and the "book description" of the 67: it has a grooved target trigger instead of smooth combat, no red ramp in the front sight. Hammer *may* have been replaced, but not sure.

Regardless, I now have a K-38 "Combat Masterpiece" in the safe. Range trip sometime this week!

SW 001

SW 002

Feb 25, 2010

Oh Boy. Oh Boy. Snowmaged- ... what?

The forecast for the past few days has been progressively doomier-gloomier, with snowfall total starting around six inches and increasing to 14-20" as of late morning today.

Every school in the county closed preemptively. Most of the services and shopping closed early. The YMCA. Meals-on-Wheels. Etcetera.

I drove downtown around 11 for a service appointment on the truck. The roads were generally wet with a bit of slush where things had drifted. I picked up MrsZ from work around 2 and we moseyed home - still on wet roads. School buses would have been able to handle things just fine.

I shoveled the sidewalk and steps and deck clear of the four or five inches of fresh/drifted snow and went to bed. Got up around 7, had a leisurely dinner, and went back out to shovel the sidewalk and deck, as well as the driveway. Sidewalk and deck took a few minutes, as there was only a couple inches of fresh snow. I headed to the driveway, and did a double-take ... because it was clear. Turns out our neighbor down the street came down and cleared us out with his tractor. We wandered down there (a brisk half-mile walk in 25-degree snow, minus wind chill) and took them a loaf of fresh-baked bread MrsZ had made, sat and chatted and had a drink and half-watched the end of "Idol".

We came home around 10, and the sidewalk I'd cleared two hours ago had two inches of fresh white stuff on it. Inch an hour. Not bad. If we catch one of the "heavier narrow bands" they're forecasting, we might end up with some real snow, otherwise there will be another 6-8 inches overnight for a total of maybe 14 inches. Nice snowfall, and slow. Keeps things pretty.

The money quote from the local rag, though, is this:
"This is not a "snowicane." "This is really a typical storm. It's nothing unusual. We've had them before, we'll have them again," said New York State climatologist Mark Wysocki.

Precisely. I went through the store after getting the truck worked on, and there were still plenty of french-toast fixin's there. I got marshmallows, baguettes, and some cheese and crackers. We've got plenty of staples. I spent half an hour this morning making sure the generator was running well and that the chainsaw had fuel and oil and would start. There's a hair over a half-ton of coal in the cellar and plenty of food and water. We wouldn't suffer for several days, just smell a little funky.

Life is good. I like snow.

Feb 23, 2010

Quick Product Pimp

I don't often do this, but today's (2/23) Woot Sellout Item is a crank radio/flashlight that gets the NOAA weather channels and AM/FM bands. I've got one similar to it that lives in the bin of emergency gear. $25 is a good price. If you don't have something like it, you should. Most household or car radios don't pick up NOAA weather, and if things are going sideways, battery life will be at a premium. This doesn't need them.

Feb 20, 2010

Alternative Energy

Yeah, that's right. Alternative energy. Say it with me. It's not a dirty word. Seven syllables. (Isn't a haiku 5/7/5? I might have an idea! See below.)

In any case. I've been looking at alternative/off-grid power for a long time. My truck has an inverter and deep-cycle battery hiding in the toolbox. Doesn't see much use, but it's there. I've been toying with the idea of a small setup for fuel-free backup power at home.

Conveniently, Northern Tool Co sent me an emailthis week advertising various items for sale. Among those were their 15W/12V solar panels. I talked to the Mrs and ordered two of them along with a charge controller. The intention will be to put a small battery bank in the garage along with a small inverter, big enough to run the coal stove for a few hours at a clip.

Yes, we have a generator - but our genset will suck down nearly eight gallons of fuel every 24 hours, and there is a limit to how much fuel we can store. On top of that, it takes time to get the generator hauled out, fired up, hooked up, etc. I wanted something that could simply be one switch and an extension cord until we have time to get everything else going.

I'll be adding a few deep-cycle batteries in the next couple months, probably to end up around 300-400Ah of capacity. 400Ah with a 300W inverter (coal stove draws 200W, adding a cushion is a good idea) should last up to six hours. I'm well aware that 30W of solar power won't keep up with the load, but they will be more than enough to maintain and trickle-charge the bank. If there's an extended outage, one of the things to do will be recharging the battery bank whenever the genset is being run, then allowing the inverter to run the coal stove when the power is off. (Est. charge time 400Ah @ 30W/12V = 160hr sunshine - but that's from zero charge.)

In addition to providing a backup power source, we will probably get a portable fence charger in order to move the goats around the yard to spots that would otherwise be un-grazed, or if they go to visit family/friends for a vacation.

Somewhere on down the road, I'd love to have enough alt-energy to be, if not off-grid, at least not completely grid-dependent. I think a small wind turbine would be feasible where we are, and a good-size solar array would be plausible for about half of the year. Our average monthly electricity use is around 500kW-h, so a 1500W system would cover the vast majority of our power needs.

I'm still waiting for replacement LED bulbs that are both affordable and realistic replacements in terms of light quality.

green power calls me
alternative energy
it's not a bad thing

Feb 18, 2010

Random Topics

I've had numerous thoughts and blog posts kicking around in my head lately. Often I'll have an idea and jot a little note to myself to think about developing it into more. Unfortunately, most of them will never coalesce into more than a paragraph or so - so I'll just wrap them all into one big brain-dump!

Special Parking
I'm not talking about handicap spaces. Not even "with child" spaces at the grocery store - that's catering to their customers and they're a private business. No, this one irks me even more. I drove by a new public building in our county the other night, looking the place over when I had a few minutes to kill. The first TWO ROWS of parking were posted. Not handicap. Not "county vehicles"... but "LEV/Fuel Efficient Vehicle Parking ONLY". WTF? Talk about reinforcing the entitlement mindset!

American Runs On...
You know how the slogan ends. If that's what America runs on, we're doomed. I stopped at our local one for a cup and a sandwich before work the other night. I had to tell my order to the idiot behind the counter THREE TIMES before he got it even close to right. And then he forgot my donut. After all that, I finally noticed that the idiot had, in addition to the drive-thru talkie on one ear ... his goddamn ipod earbud in the other. Stupid should hurt.

Remington Home Defense loads
Remington, maker of firearms and ammunition for a LONG time, has released a line of shotgun shells for home defense. From their own product description:
Remington HD Ultimate Home Defense shotgun ammunition features the same pellet material as the popular Wingmaster HD™ tungsten-bronze hunting ammunition and is offered in two loadings. Consumers can choose from a load of BB’s for the highest terminal energy or a duplex mixture of #2 and #4 pellets for excellent pattern density and outstanding stopping power with a reduced chance of over-penetration.

Only one problem. While the "HD" alloy is denser than lead, the increased density is not enough to make #2 or #4 shot an acceptable defensive load. Birdshot is for birds! The BB load is borderline-acceptable, as BBs are .177" diameter and will provide somewhat greater penetration. However, a quick bit of math shows that BB pellets have ONE THIRD the mass of #4 buck - often considered to be the bare minimum for effective defense.

If you're going to use a shotgun for defense - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! - use an appropriate load. BIRDSHOT - and BBs are bird shot - IS FOR BIRDS.

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (D)
Senator Bayh announced earlier this week that he will not be running for re-election in the fall. In his own words:
"Congress is not operating as it should, [...] too much partisanship and not enough progress—too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving."

I am not familiar with Senator Bayh's political ideology. I generally won't broad-brush by party affiliation, only by the title of "politician". However, I have to give him a strong "attaboy!" for having the guts to stand up and say that something is wrong. Now, let's find someone to FIX IT.

Which brings me to...

Replacing Elected Officials
While working out the other night, I glanced up at the TVs arrayed across the gym and noticed a poll graphic on CNN. It seems that of those interviewed, 63% felt their elected officials did not deserve re-election in November. Nearly TWO THIRDS. That is what a statistician would call "significant" and a politician should call "frightening". The devil, however, is in the details - and we'll know the details come November 3. If the masses cast their ballots and re-elect the incumbent idiots, then we truly deserve what we have wrought.

And that brings us along to...

Also an "on the screen while exercising", the blurb was "GOP claims Tea Party threatens their chances" or some such. The point being that the Tea Party will divide the conservative voters and let the Democratic candidates win with a plurality, instead of a Republican winning by a majority.

The thing is, though, if the GOP is that threatened by the Tea Party, they shouldn't be whining about the Tea Party "stealing votes" - they should be looking very closely at their platform and constituents and figuring out what values they would need to incorporate in order to recover those voters. It's not rocket science. The Big Two have lost touch with the vast majority of the population. We are no longer represented by our colleagues and peers, but ruled by lawyers and career politicians.

Using Mr. Bayh as an example: he entered public service as the Indiana Secretary of State at age 30, served just over two years, and was then elected Governor for eight years, at which time he was elected to the US Senate. He is now 54 years old and has spent TWENTY FIVE of those years on the public payroll. He is a CAREER POLITICIAN. In seven years, at age 62, he will be eligible for his pension as a retired senator. That pension amount will be paid by us for the rest of his life - and is roughly equivalent to the average US household income in 2009. Not a bad gig, huh? (I'm on the public payroll too, but I have to work 30 years and contribute from my own base pay in order to receive my pension.)

There is a fairly small (but noisy) section of society that rails against firefighters and police officers calling the general public "civilians". The argument is that it creates an us-them mentality, a sense of superiority, and so forth.

I lean the other way. The firemen and cops are the ones you call when things are going sideways. There is an us-them - because they have all sworn an oath to serve, protect, defend, uphold, etc. I took that oath, more than once - to preserve and uphold the laws of the state and the country, and the US Constitution. Haven't taken that oath or one very similar? Then you are relying on the sheepdogs. You may not consider yourself a sheep, but when things are bad, you're calling us.

Am I superior to you? Not at all. I'm just another joe trying to get by, who happens to believe in what he's doing enough to risk everything for a stranger. It's not for glory - I shun reporters. It's not for money - I volunteer. It's for love. Love of the job, love of helping, love of my fellow man. John 15:13. I will if I have to, but I sure don't WANT to.

Yeah, I'm a flashlight geek. Can't help it. Big lights, small lights, unusual lights - they're all good. I thought about trying to gather all the flashlights in the house and cars and such for a group picture, but decided it would be WAY too much effort, and I'd probably miss a couple. Suffice it to say, there are flashlights in every room, most drawers, every car, most coats. MagLite is very well-represented. I've got one Surefire. (I'd have more, but $65 for a light hurts.) A handful of made-in-China store brand lights. A Streamlight or two. Couple Pelicans. My EDC light is a Leatherman Serac S2 (now discontinued, I need to buy a couple more and stick them away).

I had a gift card for Lowes burning a hole in my pocket, so I went down there browsing the other day. MagLite has had an LED AA light for a while, but now it's MOAR BETTER with a "smart switch". Different brightness levels, blinky modes, etc. I decided to try it out. They claim the beam is focusable - it is, just barely. The flash modes are useless gimmicks, IMHO. The high-low is nice. Light quality is very good, nice bright white light. The cost of all this, however, is an extra inch in length and an extra ounce in weight over the halogen AA MagLite - and a $12 price premium ($21 vs. $9).

Now that I've got one, for my nickel, it's cheaper and better to buy one of the NiteIze LED combos. This particular one is a new model coming soon, I have one of the older versions and find that it works like a charm. A Mini-MagLite was never designed for long throw, so losing focus isn't a big deal to me.

And that's it. The whole brain dump. Until another random thought strikes me.

Feb 17, 2010

upcoming topics

placeholder post, topics to cover soon:
- LEV pkng
- magled
- dunkin
- in sen
- rem hd
- "civ"

Feb 13, 2010

Gunny Dreams

Some people remember their dreams, some don't. Some dreams stay with you, others fade quickly.

I've heard numerous anecdotes about shooters having the "gun fail" dreams. I always thought it was a little weird, but since when do dreams make sense?

Well, now I've had those dreams two nights in a row.

Dream One:
I'm at home (which is remarkably similar, but not identical, to our house) and head outside to do some chores. There is, for whatever reason, an unusually large rabbit (as in labrador-retriever size; that's no ordinary rabbit!) in the goat pen. It's a long shot - 30 yards - since the only thing I have is my usual CCW, the 642. And, obviously, a +P .38 is overkill for rabbits, right? Well, I decide to try to stalk closer and take a chance on ruining some meat. But when I get around the corner of the garage, I see the rest of the pen is full of oversize critters too. E.g., a porcupine nearly the same size as the rabbit, but with the coloration and smell of a skunk. (Yes, I sometimes have smells in my dreams.) Well, that waddles off the other direction, and now the rabbit is a clear close shot. So I draw my pistol, and flip the cylinder open to check my loads - and drop all five rounds on the ground.

I kneel down to pick up the cartridges, and as I pick them up, the bullet falls off a couple of them. I pick up the bullets and jam them back on over the powder (which didn't fall out), but some of them are now seated backwards or at weird angles. So be it. I stand up and the rabbit is gone, so I start to re-chamber the cartridges.

A car pulls into the driveway. A scuzzy-looking older guy gets out (stringy/greasy gray hair, five or six days of stubble, stained undershirt, nasty flannel shirt, beat-to-death green carhartt jacket. He sees the pistol still in my hand and kinda startles, as I jam it into a jacket pocket and give him an embarassed smile. He starts in about needing directions, and would give me some gas for my truck if I could give him directions to somewhere. I told him I didn't need gas, but let me go find a map.

I go inside, shut the door behind me, and go upstairs to get a map. I come back down and the teakettle is whistling. Odd, because I didn't put the kettle on. And the door is open. I see the guy now standing in the living room looking over our stuff. I suggest he wait outside and I'll be right there. He argues, I tell him he's gotta go RIGHT NOW. He argues. I draw my pistol but keep it pointed down, and repeat that he needs to leave. He goes out the door, and I go turn the kettle off. I grab the map and head outside to give him his directions (yeah, I know, what?).

He's halfway to his car, and I say something to him about getting his directions. He keeps walking and starts digging in the car, and I keep walking towards him with the map. He comes back around the car, but now he's got his own gun - a nickel 3" S&W Model 36, if my dream-eyes were right. I drop the map and draw down on him, but he keeps walking. I'm shouting that he needs to drop it and leave, but he keeps walking towards me. He brings his gun up when he's about six feet from me, and I ducked under and stepped into the arm, bringing my own gun right up into his rib cage. My finger was tightening on the trigger as I felt something hit my own head...

... and I woke up, shaky and dripping sweat. First thing I did? Reached to where I keep my pistol and checked the loads. They were fine. :)

Dream Two:
I had been stationed on an island of some sort. Wasn't in the military, but I was on a military base, on a damn tiny island, and I was the only one there. The name for the island was Ewa or Eywa or something like that, and it was in the South Atlantic. (I looked, there isn't.) I was trying to get a very old radio working so I could get a message out somewhere. This very old radio, however, looked a lot like a Dewalt worksite radio. In any case, I got the radio working, and got an answer telling me to look out for a raid.

Sure enough, no sooner had I gotten the message than a boat (which looked suspiciously like the dinner cruise boat at our local waterfront) pulled up to the pier in front of the building I was in, and a group of soldiers (Asian, possibly Japanese?) started looking for me. Except they were armed with Mosin-Nagants. I took cover, and pulled out my pistol (yep, that same 642 that failed me the night before!)... one of them opened the door to the room I was in, and I aimed and shot. The gun went bang, and he fell over, so I ran to him to take the rifle - except he stood up and rubbed his forehead where the bullet had hit him without penetrating. Aw, crap!

I pointed the gun and pulled the trigger again, except now the trigger pull was zero - it went all the way back without doing anything. No resistance, no cylinder rotation, no click, no bang. So I pistol-whipped the guy, took his rifle away, and went to hide somewhere else and figure out what was wrong with my revolver. Opened the cylinder, took out a piece of cloth that was clogging the hand, and started to close the cylinder. A Very Large Hand reached over my shoulder (think Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant in "Princess Bride") and took the revolver away from me. I looked up at the biggest Asian I have ever seen, who opened my revolver, took out some other clogging piece, smiled and handed it back to me, then walked away.

Now properly armed with a rifle and a pistol, I went off to fight the Invading Hordes. I opened the door to the main room, and there they were...

... And then I woke up. No shaking or sweating this time, just a really screwed-up dream.

So. What are YOUR gunny dreams/nightmares?

Feb 10, 2010

Snowmageddon Maybe, DADT

Our weather forecast has been changing nearly hourly for the past few days. Saturday it was a winter storm watch, with potential for heavy snowfall. Sunday the watch continued, with 7-10 inches predicted. Yesterday they lifted the watch completely and were down to 3-5 inches. This afternoon they issues a winter weather advisory, and the forecast is back to 4-7 inches. Apparently some idiot-box weatherman said, "I'll go with the model predictions, but honestly, I have no idea what's going to happen."

I left the house for work around 9:30 and there was about two inches of fresh white. Roads were slick but not bad. Three hours later, there's another inch or two, but who knows what may happen in the next six or eight hours.

And since when is six inches of snow worthy of a weather advisory? SRSLY. When I was younger, we'd watch the weather with the evening news, and the talking head would just tell us to expect 4-6 inches. Or 8-10. Or whatever. And that's just the way it was. Somewhere along the line, someone must have decided that we needed drama with our weather. And now, you've got "weather forecasting" like this:

I still just click on a NOAA weather radio if I want a simple forecast. Listen to the computer-generated voice with no inflection, get the forecast and other necessary information, click it off, and done.

I haven't been to the store to see if they're out of french toast fixin's. We've got plenty of ... everything. I still don't understand, after the examples bombarding us on a regular basis, how people can not have at least a couple days of necessities on hand at home - but that's another rant entirely.

On to DADT. Short form of my opinion: I don't care whose fun bits you're interested in, or which orifice you put your own in. As long as everyone is consenting, go forth and sin some more. I'm not going to touch the third rail of women who become pregnant while on active duty in a combat zone.

Feb 7, 2010

Gun Show, Pt. II

After some debating with myself, I went back to the show this morning, Bersa and cash in hand, to make the trade on the LCP. Looked the LCP over more closely. Worked the slide, looked in the barrel, and was struck ... "Is this used??"

"Yep, last guy sent it in for the recall and then decided he didn't trust it. Sold it back, I've shot it some, and now selling it."

I told him that since it was a used gun I'd have to seriously reconsider. He had it stickered at $350. For a USED LCP. A dealer in the opposite corner had a BRAND NEW LCP for $359. I talked to him about a trade, and said he'd want the Bersa with mags and holsters "plus a couple hundred". GFY, pal.

I moseyed the rows a bit longer, had a couple other dealers ask what I wanted for the Bersa, none took me up on it.

So, the Bersa will go on a few classifieds, and I'll start saving pennies in the meantime.

Other items seen at the show:
Primers, all sizes, $40/1000.
Bulk .22LR for $35-40/brick.
Beat-to-death Turk Mauser for $125.
Remington 887 shotgun - looks interesting, might have to investigate one.

And last but not least:
A Colt SAA, ostensibly 1870s production, in excellent condition, with a note on it saying "Appraised at $25,000, show special price $19,500!". Said note written on one of those oblong white adhesive-backed tags and slapped on the sideplate. HEATHENS.

Feb 6, 2010

Gun Show, Pockets

Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn't I?

Here's what's in my pockets, all the time:


Wallet, cash, 642 with a speed strip, Leatherman tool, phone of one form or another, Fisher Space Pen, Burt's Bees lip balm, CRKT Point Guard knife, Leatherman S2 light, keys.

If I had JayG's scale, I'd tell you how much it all weighs!

Now that the formalities are done with, on to the gun show report.

In one sentence: What a waste of time.

I got there just before 4pm, and the parking lot was starting to thin out. Went in, lady at the door zip-tied my trade fodder, took my money, stamped my hand, and I started browsing.

I'd gone in without much in the way of hard goals. I was kind of looking for an LCP, and had my Bersa with accessories as trade fodder. If a nice wheelie showed up, I had my 647 along but wasn't real eager to part with that. I did notice the blue S&W briefcase getting more than a few glances, but only one dealer asked what was in it.

Worked my way down the aisles, eying the various milsurp gear, a table of "nazi" stuff, reloaded ammo, some milsurp rifles ($1400 for a Garand? SRSLY?), plenty of hunting rifles in various flavors, a few ARs (prices are back to near-pre-0-days), and a few cases of pistols. Some were sorta-fair priced, some were ... uh ... optimistically so.

For example:
Ruger Speed Six, 90%: $350 (tempting, actually)
Glock 19: $580
Glock 19C: $630
Ruger LCP: $350-360
S&W Model 60, 90%: $600

Now, the 19C was a fair price. The rest of that? GMAFB. I offered a dealer my Bersa with two magazines and two holsters, box and docs, straight across for an LCP. He said he'd need $20 cash on top for "paperwork fees". I told him no thanks - I'm willing to take a hit on the Bersa because it is now a used gun, but I can buy them on the auctions all day long for $280, or get one from my dealer for $290. Straight across for the LCP with no accessories would've been more than fair; the dealer got greedy. His loss.

Other things that caught my eye ... a (BADLY) sporterized Springfield 1903 for $700... a set of Crimson Trace grips for the 642, but no price on them and no one around the table to ask ... some various flavors of Contenders for reasonable prices (the .223 with peep sights intrigued me)...

But nothing to really make the show worth the trip or the money. Dealers ignoring people looking through cases, signs everywhere "DON'T TOUCH" ... meh. Just not the atmosphere I'd hoped for. Bits of conversation indicated the opening hours had been insane, so maybe the attitude was just exhaustion. I dunno. Just re-confirms my feeling that gun shows around here aren't the home of great deals and steals.

The Pad

In another lifetime, I was a Geek. Yes, with a capital "G". Belt full of gadgets, laptop bags stuffed with widgets. I could discuss networking protocols enough to be functional, understood the wiring, routing, switching, etc. Some of it still hangs in the background, and I don't have to call tech support, but I gave the vast majority of it up and have been happy to re-assign the brain-space it was taking.

Now I still consider myself a bit of a geek, but no more capital "G". Certainly not a hardware geek. No longer is the latest-greatest that interesting. To wit: I have been thinking about a new iPod Nano, since my 1st-generation Shuffle (the white pack'o'gum style, 512MB) is starting to frustrate me. I wandered over to the Apple site and looked things over, and was startled to see that the Nano has a camera, and microphone, and speaker, and zOMG! I exclaimed about such to a friend, who said something along the lines of, "They announced that last fall. It's not new."

My desktop is nearly nine years old (PowerMac G4/667, purchased in spring 2001), my Mac laptop is approaching five years (iBook G4/1.2), and my two previous systems are still floating around - functional if somewhat long in the tooth. (Mom and Dad have my 8600/200, which was upgraded with a G3/375, and my iBook SE/366 is in a box in the house.) In other words, I've become the user that wants it to "just work" - but I'm able to get under the hood when it doesn't.

I have, very loosely, kept a half-eye on the news from Cupertino, because when Apple does something new and different, they tend to do it VERY well. Sure, there have been a few resounding thuds along the way (20th Anniversary Mac, Mac Cube, Newton), but so many of their products have literally revolutionized the information world. The Macintosh. The iMac (OMG NO FLOPPIES!). The iPod (in all its incarnations). The iPhone.

Now, the iPad.

There has been some VERY loud screeching from various corners, and some of it is understandable. One of the largest arguments against the iPad is the tightly controlled software stream: it comes from the iTunes Store, and that's IT. Monopolistic? Well, yes and no. Yes, because that allows Apple to control what goes to your machine, but it allows developers to make a profit, clearly reduces piracy issues, and also provides a cleaner support process for Apple. Easy, clean installations; software has to go through SOME kind of vetting process before release... Is it ideal? Probably not, but it's the system in place for now.

Other people have said that Apple released it without having a clear market in mind. On the contrary, I think Apple had a very clear idea of who they were aiming this at: users who want it to "just work", and users who have lightweight overall computing needs OR lightweight mobile needs and have access to heavy-duty hardware at home or work. By combining a reasonable screen size and proven simple interface with either a WiFi or 3G data connection, I believe they've got another home-run here.

For example: the 60-something retiree who wants to read the news, write some emails, and poke around in his fishing forums. Or the mid-level executive in his 30s who needs a mobile data connection, more than an iPhone or Blackberry, but doesn't need a full-fledged laptop or even netbook. Or me. A gen-X'er who wants mobile data but is thrifty and doesn't need a "smart" phone.

Let's look at the specs real quick: 8x10", half an inch thick, with a 9.7" HD screen. Weighs 1.5lb, battery life is 8-10 hours. Light as a paperback, smaller than a purse. A 3G data connection is $15/month for 250MB or $30/month for unlimited data - and no contract. Thirty bucks a month for unlimited data? Baby, sign me up. I can cancel my dial-up internet at home ($21/month) and have a better connection, and be able to take it with me.

Netbooks are nice, but have small screens and keyboards, and are generally underpowered for what they're doing. Smartphones are slick, but the postage-stamp screen is a real pain, and the three-inch-wide keyboard is just unrealistic for some of us. Laptops can be a nuisance to lug around everywhere, and a data card is an expensive luxury for most users.

The final noise against the iPad is the Apple fanatics. Yes, those who line up, wallets in hand, for ANYTHING to ship from 1 Infinite Loop. They are saying that Apple "owes them" more. That Apple has "betrayed their expectations". Bucko, you can only have expectations of Apple if you own stock, and they sure aren't disappointing there. (AAPL 2/6/09: 99.72. AAPL 2/5/10: 195.29. Any questions?) Don't like it? DON'T BUY IT. It's that simple.

Of course, the iPad is pure vaporware right now - but Apple has a pretty clean history of a product matching the hype, and I think this will be another feather in their cap. I look forward to putting my hands on one, and this may well be my next major technology purchase.

Feb 3, 2010

Winter sounds

I opened the front door this evening, and was greeted by a world gradually blurring to white. A light snow was falling out of the dark sky, hiding the world beyond the spill of our porch lights. As I walked to the driveway with a bucket of ashes to dump, I was greeted by the sharp squeal of an animal learning to appreciate the food chain... and then the yipping song of coyotes on the hunt.

It's an eerie but beautiful sound. Tonight, it sounded like they were in the field directly across the road from the house. My first instinct, given how loud they were, was that I was hearing a hunter's recorded call. As I listened and looked, though, I realized that they were moving - quickly. Most likely they had found a rabbit browsing the hedges and didn't quite kill it.

I stood and looked and listened in the cold for a moment, ash bucket in one hand and the other twitching toward the revolver on my belt. I've never heard coyotes that close, and they are not a predator to be trifled with around here - in truth, they are the only large-ish predator we have. A record coyote was taken about an hour from us three or four years ago; it weighed in at 85lbs, if memory serves. Talking with other hunters, the usual is more in the 50-60lb range. For perspective, an average German Shepherd male will top out right around 90lbs.

I shivered and shook myself out of my cautious reverie, and walked back in to the house - where both cats were standing in the hallway staring directly at the door, and looking like a stiff breeze would send them flying up the stairs. When I went out the back door to the garage, I said goodnight to the goats - both of whom were standing outside their hut and staring into the field across the road. I looked again, but couldn't see anything through snow and brush.

I think I need to talk to the neighbor about permission to hunt there, soon.

Off topic amusement: topic in the ARFCOM "AR Discussion" forum: "End of the world scenario: What color furniture for AR15". ... because damnit, if the world is ending, I want to make sure I look GOOD!

Feb 1, 2010

Search Term Roundup

I haven't been tracking these as closely lately, but here's the search terms from the last week of visits:

history of plumbum
Plumbum is latin for lead. It doesn't have a history. It's a malleable, dense metal, silver-gray in color, and frequently used for projectiles. What more do you want?

craigslist winchester 30-30 pre 64
I've seen this go through in various forms more than once. Suggestion: search in your local city, not via google, and keep in mind that Craigslist specifically forbids firearms and related items in its terms of use. Not that this stops people from posting them - just look for posts titled "hunting items" and asking you to email for details.

"s&w 647"" performance center"
The Performance Center is S&W's in-house custom shop. They do some very slick work. The 647 PC is a .17HMR DA/SA revolver, 12" barrel, picatinny rail, sling studs, and bipod mount. It's supposed to be a hell of a varmint and bench pistol. I don't have exact numbers off-hand, but anecdotally, total production was under 500. Expect to cough up big bucks, IF you can find one.

"s&w 28" exploded view
The 28, also known as the Highway Patrolman, is a lesser-polished version of the Model 27. That is, a DA/SA revolver in .357Magnum. The internal workings are essentially identical to those of ANY 3-screw pre-lock S&W revolver, so any disassembled view should point you in the right direction. A word of caution: DA revolvers are some of the most complex firearms out there and should not be tinkered with lightly.

superstitious day
Well, the post *I* wrote was about a Friday the 13th. Other good options are All Hallow's Eve, All Saints Day, your wedding day, birthday, the Ides of March, St. Patrick's Day ... the list is long.

"smith & wesson 647"
Go read this entry. That's all I have to say about that.

broken shell wolf .223
Most Wolf-branded ammo is steel-cased. Steel is less ductile than brass, and doesn't do as well under the stresses of firing. It tends to become work-brittle very easily, and can either blow the head off the case or allow the rim to be torn off. When it happened to me, the extractor ripped the rim off the case and dropping a brass rod down the bore cleared the chamber easily. There are numerous broken-shell extraction tools out there as well. If you're planning to shoot lots of cheap ammo, it would behoove you to buy one or more of these for the range bag. Better yet - shoot better ammo. Wolf will almost certainly never occupy my ammo shelf again.

Bit brisk...

Driving home this morning at 7, the time-n-temp on the bank downtown said 2. This is in the "warmer valley" with a large body of water to help moderate temperature.

When I got home, I checked the thermometer. I didn't get a picture then, but here's what it looked like before work this evening:


Forgive the crappy cell-camera picture, but that shows "Today's high: 24. Today's low: 1."


One ABOVE zero. If you're a metric geek, that's -17C.

It's cold enough that my tires lost a couple pounds of pressure and the idiot light for pressure came on.

So cold that you don't even get to see your breath - it's crystallized and gone before it's in front of you.

Smoke rises from chimneys in a solid cloud and just hangs there; no drift or rise to it.

Some of the valleys on the way home had the remnants of hoarfrost on the brush and trees - but the rising sun had already kissed most of it away.

The goats were nestled together in their hut, both heads sticking out the door, frost on whiskers.

Sometimes driving home in the raw hours is a nice treat.