Friday, September 29, 2006

A Couple of Interesting Developments

I received word earlier this week that I got approval to attend's Business Service Symposium outside Chicago next month. Since the attendance fee is about $100 less if you're a member of SCTE, and membership costs $58, I also signed up as a member. I'm looking forward to the conference although not to the flights there and back. Although I'll only be away for a few days, I'll need to check a bag, since the idiots in charge at the TSA have decided it's too dangerous to allow me to carry on my Gerber Multiplier, Swiss Army Cybertool, or my Benchmade Griptilian.

The other interesting development is that it looks like I'll be a floor captain. I made it known that I'd be interested in being one after the clusterf*ck last Thursday. With my background in the Civil Air Patrol in a search & rescue squadron plus my ham license, I figure I'm as qualified as anyone, and more so than most. I'm hoping that by getting involved I'll be more in the loop the next time something happens.

NeoOffice Revisted

In my never-ending quest to find a good alternative to Word 2004, I am giving NeoOffice another shot on my iBook. I've had Nisus Writer Express on here, but while it's nice I don't need it enough to shell out $69 for a license. NeoOffice 2 is the Aqua port of to OS X. I've had OO.o 2 on the box for awhile but it requires me to run X11, which increases overhead. Since NO2 doesn't require X11 I'm hoping it's a bit nicer to use. Launching is still slow but we'll have to see how it is when I'm editing an existing long document.

I configured NO2 to save text documents as .RTF files by default, in case I decide to axe it. The out of the box setting is to save them as .ODF (Open Document Format) files. Saving as .RTF means that I can more easily open any new docs that I create with or Word.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

iPod Video

Oh heck, a new vice.

I recall that when the new Battlestar Galactica show was announced my reaction was along the lines of, “Ughh, that’s gonna suck.” I watched the original when I was a kid and loved it then. But a few years ago SciFi ran it again in syndication and I had to turn it off after about ten minutes before I vomited due to massive ‘70s cheese and crappy acting. So, when I watched the pilot for the new show and saw how good it was I got hooked. The old show was definitely for kids, and trying to ride on the coat tails of Star Wars. The new show, in contrast, is for adults.

I watched the first season and halfway through the second season, then stopped watching pretty much any TV. But today my boss wandered into the lab and told me about the BG “Story To-Date” show he downloaded for free from iTunes, which got him hooked. I decided to give it a try, and downloaded it to watch on my iPod on my train ride home.

Damn thing worked. Video on the iPod screen is surprising watchable, and since I’m listening through ear buds the sound is great. The end result is that I’m downloading all of Season 2 to get back into the show. There are 20 episodes in the season, three of which download at a time. I figure I’ll leave it running overnight and then update my iPod when I get up tomorrow morning, so I can watch on my ride in.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pietta 1858 Remington Revolver

I had a Cabela's discount card that was burning a hole in my wallet, so last week I ordered a 5.5" barreled Pietta 1858 Remington revolver from them. It came on the 13th and I shot it for the first time last night. (In the US, muzzleloading guns using loose powder and ball are not legally considered to be firearms under federal law. Some states do restrict them, but not Pennsylvania. So, I was able to order it online and have it shipped to my door via UPS.)

My first impressions are very favorable. I noticed one small ding from handling on the back of the frame to the left of the rear sight notch. Also, the bottom edge of the trigger has a little roll of metal that appears to be left over from a grinding oepration, but otherwise it looks great. The fit and polish of the brass triggerguard is superb. Wood-to-metal fit of the grips is excellent. The grips themselves are nicely-grained and finished walnut. Overall fit and finish is definitely better than my Euroarms 1858.

The Pietta's action is quite smooth, more like my Uberti 1851 Navy than the Euroarms 1858 Remington, which is rougher. The Euroarms gun seems to have a heavier hammerspring than the Pietta, but the latter still pops the caps just fine.

Two inches less barrel helps the balance quite a bit. My Euroarms hangs well and works great for offhand shooting. The Pietta is less muzzle heavy and in general is faster handling, but still hangs well.

Last night my dad and I shot it. We shot at 7 yards, one handed. Loads were Hornady .457 balls, 28 grain by volume of 3Fg Goex, CCI No.10 caps, and Dixie wads between powder and ball. Except for fliers, our groups were all one ragged hole.

I had a couple of instances where when loading the chamber must not have been perfectly aligned with the rammer, so I couldn't seat the ball flush. I had to remove the cylinder and smack the ball in with a mallet, then replace it and resume loading. I've never experienced this before. I think I'll chamfer the chamber mouths so if the rammer isn't quite aligned it'll be funnelled in.

I popped a cap on each nipple before loading and I experienced no ignition failures.

The gun was lubricated ahead of time with Ballistol. After a few cylinders it was starting to drag, but I'd forgotten to bring a bottle with me. So, I wiped down the base pin and put a couple of drops of FP-10 on it. For BP, FP-10 is definitely inferior to Ballistol.

Cleanup was quick and easy with Windex and hot water. I've come to favor Windex for BP cleaning. I think the surfactants in it do a great job of getting the fouling out.

I give the Pietta two thumbs up.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Avast me hearties! Today's International Talk Like a Pirate Day ye scurvey dogs! Today we be testin' ye Corsair keyboard.

An' beware o' the buccaneers o' ye Linus!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Several Updates to The Shooter's Bar(SM)

I made a few additions to The Shooter's Bar(SM) today. Additions include Chuck Michel of CA, David Strachtman of RI, and Darius Arbabi of MA. As far as I can tell, TSB is the largest free online list of pro-RKBA attorneys. I started it back in 1997 on Fidonet and the Paul Revere Net, and transisitoned it to the Web shortly thereafter.

Getting listed is free although it sometimes takes me awhile to get around to updating it. Attorneys who would like to be included need to email me with their info in the same format as shown on the page. You do not need to be a "gun lawyer," only pro-RKBA.

Back in one piece

We made it back from Arlington in one piece.

The drive down on Saturday wasn’t too bad, although we did run into traffic on I-95 in Delaware due to construction, and on I-495 outside Washington due to an accident in one spot, and then a mattress laying in the middle of the road a few miles down.

We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in the Roslyn section of Arlington. They’re doing reconstruction but we were several floors above it. It’s a good place for an extended stay and includes free Internet access via iBahn in the room price. They appear to block outgoing port 25 SMTP traffic, which was a bit of a PITA. I had a few messages to send and had to wait until we got home yesterday. If they’d been really important I would have tried sending them via Gmail’s SMTP server, which uses port 587 and SSL. (Instructions on how to configure for POP3 and SMTP access to Gmail are here.)

The party for my grandfather on Saturday was a lot of fun. I don’t see that side of the family too often so it was nice to be able to hang out with them. One cousin in particular I hadn't seen since we were both kids, sometime around 1977. The years have been very kind to her. (!!!)

We got back on the road relatively early yesterday and got home by about 2:00. I crashed for most of the afternoon.

And now, back to the grind ….

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Quick One

This week has gone by rather quickly.

I did some modem testing at work on Monday and Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon after a conference call regarding our new WiFi-related efforts I left at 1:30. I wanted to be home so that I wouldn’t be rushed when I later met my friends for dinner and to see The Who at the Wachovia Center in Philly.

This was my third Who concert -- I saw them in 1989 and 2002 -- and they still kick ass. The Philly show was the opener for their 2006 US tour. The band consists of the two remaining original members -- Roger Daltrey on vocals and Pete Townsend on guitar and vocals, plus John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards, Pino Palladino on bass, Simon Townsend on backup guitar and vocals, and Zak Starkey on drums.

Daltrey sounded good although he can’t quite hit the high notes like he used to. Pete sounded good as well, and his guitar playing rocked. He still does his trademark windmill. Palladino is a great bassist (although obviously he’s no John Entwistle) and Zak Starkey, well ...

Zak Starkey may be the best damn drummer in rock today. He’s that good. His playing is very reminiscent of Keith Moon’s.

The Who started the concert with I Can’t Explain and followed with some of their early tunes, The Seeker and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, then kicked it up a notch with Baba O’Riley. They also played their new mini-opera Wire and Glass. Pete was rather apologetic to the crowd for making us sit through new stuff, but it was well-received. I liked it. They also played The Relay, which I haven’t heard on the radio in years, and a good selection of tunes from Tommy including a great rendition of Amazing Journey/Sparks. Nothing from Quadrophenia, however.

The one down part of the night was the opening band. Someone thought it would be a good idea to have Peeping Tom -- a rap act -- open for The Who. A real WTF?!? moment there on par with when The Who opened for Herman’s Hermits or Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees.

My next concert will be Eric Clapton in October. His opener is going to be the Robert Cray Band, which should be very good. I’m really looking forward to the show, having seen Clapton twice back when I was in college.

Wednesday I was back in the office for a short while before our department picnic. Yesterday I spent hanging out with a guy from Arris who was upgrading a CMTS in our lab. We’re evaluating some of their pre-DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding technology. Imagine a cable modem which supports download speeds of 150 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 40 Mbps. Cool stuff indeed.

Today I’m doing a bit more testing of one of our modems. I’m also playing around with Nisus Writer Express. I’ve been looking off and on for a lightweight word processor for OS X. Word generally works OK but has a lot of overhead. NWE is definitely lighter and by default saves files in RTF format, but will read .doc files. Complex Word files do not translate perfectly, however. So far I’m mostly liking what I see, so I’ll putz around with it for the rest of the 30 day trial and then decide if I want to pay for a license.

Tomorrow we’re piling into the truck for a trip down to Arlington, VA for a 90th birthday party for my grandfather. I’m expecting the drive to suck but it’ll be worth it to see him and the rest of the family.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years

Five years. It seems like yesterday that I walked into the lunchroom at work and saw the Twin Towers burning and later felt the anxiety of not knowing how my family members in New York and Virginia were doing.

Never forget. Never forgive.

Five years and what have we done? We removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and the Baathists from power in Iraq. We haven't done anything about the Wahhabiasts in Saudia Arabia who financed the 9/11/01 attacks, nor have we done much to curb the threat of nuclear terrorism from Iran or North Korea. We have, in the guise of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration created more overbearing, incompetent Federal agencies whose main goal is to promote the appearance that they are doing something.

We're in a war for our survival against Islam. A religious war whether we like it or not. They started it and we insist on idiotic, PC, feel-good euphemisms like "Global War on Terror" (as if you can declare war on a tactic) and "Religion of Peace" (for a religion that spread by the sword and continues to call for holy war against unbelievers).

We piss away American lives and money in futile nation-building efforts for people who don't want us there and barely understand the concepts of democracy and fundamental human rights. Money and lives that could be better spent on developing energy independence that would allow us to stay out of the Middle East and deprive the barbarians of their source of money, which they use to finance their war against us.

Five years and we still haven't done anything to plug up our leaking southern border. Five years that we've continued to fund the United Nations, a tool for Muslim countries to foment hate against the US and Israel.

Five years of bipartisan pussified idiocy which brings us no closer to dealing with the real problem -- Islam -- than we were before the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

McCain-Feingold Reminder

As several other bloggers have mentioned, we are now in the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Period.

I'll refer you to my post from last year on this issue, Regulate This! and the McCain-Feingold Insurrection. A pox on any politician who tries to regulate free speech.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Goodbye Summer

The end of another Labor Day weekend and another summer. Time sure flies.

Saturday night I went to the range with my father, brother Josh, and Judith. This was J.'s second time ever. I let Josh handle instructing J.; he formerly held NRA pistol instruction certification but let it lapse. Anyway, this time she used my dad's 50th Anniversary Ruger Mark II .22 autoloader, which she liked much better than my S&W Model 18. At 21 feet she's able to keep almost all of her shots on a 9" pie plate, which is doing very well for someone just starting out. I'll be picking up a Ruger for her sometime soon.

I brought my Springfield 1911A1 and Browning High Power Practical. I had two new Chip McCormick Shooting Star mags to try in the 1911 and two Mec-Gar 15 rounders for the BHP. The CMC mags worked fine but I found that one of my old CMCs was causing last round failures-to-feed. Rather annoying.

The Mec-Gar mags worked perfectly in the BHP, as expected. They came with some sort of sticky preservative on them though which seemed to persist even after I wiped them down with FP-10. This caused the BHP's trigger to be absolutely awful -- heavy with a lot of creep (the mags affect the trigger pull in the BHP due to the magazine safety). After getting home I wiped the Mec-Gars down with Hoppe's No.9 and using some Flitz, polished the point on where the magazine release bears. This improved the trigger somewhat but I really need to remove the magazine safety.

Sunday I took some time and primed 100 .38 Special cases and set up my loading dies to seat and crimp Speer 148 grain hollow base wadcutters. I used my RCBS hand priming tool to prime the cases and I'm not sure why, but 5 of the primers got mangled in seating. I shot WD-40 into the cases to kill the primers then decapped them. It may be that the Federal primers are towards their maximum acceptable size while the primer pockets in my Winchester brass were a little tight. In the past I've used a Lee Auto Primer and never run into this. I plan to get the cases loaded sometime during the week using a light charge of Bullseye and the aforementioned Speer wadcutters, for nice .38 target loads.

I spend most of yesterday outside doing yard work. We had a small pine tree planted in a half barrel off the back patio, the top of which was getting too close to some wires. Removing it gave me the chance to try out the Gerber Camp axe I bought awhile ago at REI. It worked well. Before chopping down the tree I sharpened it using my belt sander, which I clamped upside-down to a folding workbench. I also used it to sharpen a machete and a tomahawk. Aside from the pine tree I bundled up a number of branches that were laying around so that I can dispose of them, and cleaned up our back patio which was covered with leaves that blew down when Ernesto came through over the weekend.

I still didn't get a chance to test the slimjim antenna I constructed on Friday, but hopefully soon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Yaesu FT-7800R Remote Mounting

I took today off to make this a four day weekend.

Yaesu sells a kit to allow you to mount the detachable face of their FT-7800R mobile 2M/70cm transceiver on your dashboard, while the rest of the radio is placed out of sight under a seat or in your trunk. The remote mounting kit is basically two cables, one to connect the faceplate to the radio and one speaker wire. Even though I use my FT-7800R as a base radio, I wanted to do something similar to free some desk space. The only problem is that Yaesu wants about $65 for the kit, which IMNSHO is ridiculous.

Thankfully, the Yahoo Groups FT-7800R mailing list to which I subscribe supplied the answer. The cable to connect the faceplate to the radio body is nothing more than a flat 6 conductor telelphone cable terminated with RJ12 plugs. Unlike a phone cord, the Yaesu cable needs to be wired straight through, not crossed. So, today I picked up an appropriate cord and some RJ12 plugs. The cord was already terminated so I had to replace an end. Instead of the $65 I spent about $12, split evenly between the cord and the package of RJ12 plugs, the unused portion of which I added to my network cabling kit.

I moved the radio to the top of my gun cabinet and attached the faceplate which incorporates the controls to Bagend's monitor with some double-sided Velcro tape. The setup is a big improvement. If I buy or make an extension for my headphone cord I'll be able to move the radio a little further over to the other side of the room. The other option I'm considering is putting the radio and power supply on a shelf above and behind the monitor.

Another ham radio related project I did today was to make a 2M Slimjim antenna, based on plans I found at Ham Universe. Rather than the copper pipe construction described at HU, I used the ground wire from some Romex in my electrical parts box. Last year I made a J-Pole from it and it worked great. Since the wire isn't rigid, I taped it to a piece of 5 foot long 3/4" PVC water pipe, with the coax cable fed through the bottom and out through a hole I drilled in the side of the pipe at the feed point. I drilled another hole up near the top and looped a cable tie through it so that I can hang it. I hope to try out the Slimjim with my VX-5RS over the weekend.