Monday, April 30, 2007

A Full Weekend

It was a full weekend, starting out Friday night when we had my folks, my MIL, BIL and his wife over for dinner. We had Chinese takeout so at least we didn't have to cook.

After everyone left I got on a radio net for the first time in awhile.

Saturday Judith took the girls to the next township over for their township day. Think "fair at the park." While they were out having fun I did yard work -- pruning one of the big pine trees and taking out a bush. Our backyard is bordered by bushes and trees on the left, right, and rear. This provides a lot of privacy but unfortunately provides places for skeets and gnats to live, making it unusable for a few months of the year. So, I am partially defoliating the hedgerows to allow more breezes in, and reduce the amount of hiding places for the bugs.

Saturday night we went to Chickie's & Pete's on Roosevelt Blvd. in Philly for mussels. C's & P's has the best mussels I've ever had -- they are large and served up in your choice of a garlicky red or white sauce.

Yesterday morning we went over to my MIL's for brunch. While the girls were crashing afterwards I farted around on the Intarweb and J. went out shopping. Later, everyone came over for a barbecue.

Again, after everyone went home I got on the radio. I also ordered a PanelRelief adjustable coax feed-through panel from Quicksilver Radio. It's an adjustable Lexan panel with two SO239-to-SO239 connectors on it, for mounting in a window. Now, when I want to use my FT-7800R I have to open the window in my office and connect the antenna cable which sits coiled up on the sill. This isn't a problem when it's warm but it gets a bit chilly during the winter, even if I put a rolled up towel in the window to block the breeze. The PanelRelief will allow me to semi-permanently connect the coax cable coming from antenna. I'll then connect a 3-foot patch cord from the radio to the panel, and will be able to easily detach it in the event of a thunderstorm.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Getting a few things out of the way

I took the day off yesterday so that I could be home while a contractor came out to install Comcast Digital Voice. With my employee discount, I'll be saving about $10 per month compared to Vonage. (I don't mention my employer by name very often but I've disclosed it here previously.)

According to the tech, my RF levels are perfect, which is good to know. Before installing the Arris MTA (Multimedia Terminal Adapter -- fancy name for a cable modem which supports telephone connections) he replaced the ground block for my cable drop, and the splitter out back. He also cleaned up some of the spaghetti where the drop comes into the house by shortening the coax patch cords.

I now have both the Arris MTA and my regular SMC8014 modems. The Arris is being used only for my phone service, while the SMC, with its built-in router, will continue to provide my Internet service. The SMC and my phone are plugged into an APC Back-UPS 650 for electricity. The Arris has a built-in battery that should provide up to 6 hours of standby power in case of an electrical outage.

Because Comcast CDV packets are prioritized on our network I am hoping that the quality will be better than Vonage's. Vonage packets are treated like any other packet, so they'll be more susceptible to network congestion. So far the only call I've made was to call Vonage to cancel my service, and it sounded fine.

After taking care of the phones I ran down to Microcenter to pick up new speakers for Bagend. Awhile ago I'd removed the old Altec-Lansing satellite/subwoofer speaker system and just had a headset connected. We now use Bagend sometimes for Skype calls to my brother-in-law, who lives in Okinawa, Japan. So, we needed speakers so that we could all see and talk at the same time. I wanted a two-piece speaker set due to space constraints, and Microcenter had a set of Altec-Lansing speakers w/o a subwoofer for $30. I hooked them up yesterday afternoon and they sound decent. For a mic we use the one built-in to my Logitech webcam. This setup works well.

The last thing I accomplished was to get my wheelbarrow back in service. I found a new wheel with a solid tire at Lowe's and used it to replace the original wheel which uses an inflateable tire. The original tire had long since gone flat and I'd never gotten around to fixing it. Now I'll never have to worry about it. I see no need for an inflateable on a wheelbarrow, at least for my use, it's not like I care about dirt getting a smoother ride. If the weather is decent this weekend I'll see about refinishing the wooden handles. They've been exposed to weather for about five or six years and need it. I'll probably just slather on some linseed oil and call it good.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Ack. I think I'm having a flashback to my life as a field engineer.

I'm working with a vendor who is trying to setup a new application in our demo lab. Their app runs on a couple Sun boxen in our data center and displays data on a couple of PCs connected to it via the Internet. The problem we're seeing is a delay of about 10 seconds between the time the server sees something then relays it to the PC. The response should be nearly instantaneous.

So, I'm sitting here in the lab mostly twiddling my thumbs, communicating with the vendor with AIM, and occassionally doing something when he needs someone local.

It feels like all those times I was out on a service call and waiting for the NOC to do something.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Marlin Camp 45 Tips

In the past I've written about my Marlin Camp 45. This a very fun, reliable, and accurate little rifle. Although Marlin discontinued them around 2000 or 2001, they remain popular and prices have gone up quite a bit in the past few years. If you see a Camp 45 in good condition for under $500 get it. Aside from being popular as the host for a suppressor, I suspect that when Kim du Toit wrote about his a few years ago he caused a surge in demand.

Ever since I first wrote about my Camp 45 I've occasionally received requests for guidance on them. Here are some tips to keep them running well:

1. Before you even shoot it, replace the wimpy 11# factory recoil spring with a 21# Wolff. The 11# spring is OK for the Camp 9, but the Camp 45 is grossly undersprung from the factory. If I got a Camp 9 I'd put a 16# Wolff in it. (Actually, I'd originally put a 16# in it, but then shot GeekWithA45's Camp 45, which sold me on the 21# spring. It functions well with the heavy spring, the recoil is almost zero, and as a lefty I no longer get stuff in my face shooting out the ejection port.) Caveat: With the 21# spring the action is very stiff, so if you have weak hands you may be better off with the 16# spring.

2. Ensure that the screws holding the action in the stock are tight. A loose fit, plus the OEM spring, are probably the reasons that the Camp 45 has the reputation for cracking stocks.

3. As you may know they use M1911 magazines. However, you must use mags which have a squared cutout on the top rear. Those with a semicircular cut will not seat all the way in the mag well. Chip McCormick Shooting Stars and Power Mags work well in my Camp 45.

4. The Camp 45 has a buffer in the back of the receiver which keeps the steel bolt from smacking the aluminum receiver. With a lot of shooting they can wear out, although this is less of a problem if you install a heavier recoil spring per #1, above. Pick up a spare from Marlin or Blackjack Buffers.

5. The trigger housing, which holds most of the guts of the gun, is made of plastic. It's not some fancy modern polymer so keep solvents away from it. I use nothing stronger than FP-10. Ballistol, Break Free CLP or automatic transmission fluid should also be fine. I've read from people who've learned the hard way that Gun Scrubber (AKA non-chlorinated brake cleaner) will melt it into a pile of black goo, so keep it far away.

6. Camp 45s have Marlin's Microgroove rifling, which has the reputation of shooting lead bullets poorly. I've shot only jacketed bullets in mine, so I can't speak from experience. However, it's something to be aware of before you loading up a pile of .45 ACP with lead bullets. Try a box or two of lead loads before stocking up.

Oh yeah, mine ain't for sale.

Monday, April 16, 2007

VA Tech Tragedy

Unless you've been under a rock, you've heard by now that today marks the deadliest school shooting in US history. Today, a gunman killed at least 31 people at Virginia Tech, and wounded many more.

As if on cue, the Brady Bunch and fellow gun banners are saying that we need more gun control.



Gun control created the environment in which a killer could run rampant without fear of being stopped.

As long as man is a social animal there will be bad members of society. Criminals, whether they are cold blooded killers, crazed psychotics, or terrorists, do not obey the law. VA Tech was a "gun-free zone" according to school policy. It should be obvious by now that "gun-free zone" = "target-rich environment." The school's policy is tantamount to unilateral victim disarmament. How many times in the past has that stopped predators? In 1915 Armenia? In Nazi Germany? In the killing fields of Cambodia? Today in Darfur? In numerous school shootings here in the US?

VA Tech has about 25,000 students. Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that concealed carry was legal on campus but only 1% of the student body took advantage of the ability to be legally armed. There would have been 250 persons on campus who could have responsed to the gunman's attack.

Years ago, Israel was plagued with school shootings perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists. Those shootings stopped when the Israelis started arming school staff with Uzis and M1 Carbines. No longer juicy pickings, the Pali terrorists moved onto easier targets.

In the US, the majority of college students are legally adults. They should be encouraged to take responsibility for themselves, not hindered in doing so. Society should view someone willing to equip himself with a gun and training for defense in the same way it looks at someone who keeps a fire extinguisher in his kitchen. Carry a gun for self-defense doesn't make someone a vigilante or cop wannabe, just like having fire extinguishers at home doesn't make someone a fireman wannabe.

Ironically, last year there was an effort in the Virginia legislature to lift the ban on legal CCW at VA's universities, but sadly it died in committee. At the time, a VA Tech spokesman was quoted:

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."

As usual, reflexive hoplophobia based on "feelings" ultimately resulted in dozens of dead and wounded innocents.

It's time to bury the pernicious myth that disarming good people can save them from evil.

A Few Inches of Global Warming

This morning I came out of the house to a few inches of global warming. Aside from the rain, the Nor'Easter which has slammed the NE US for the past day dumped a few inches of snow. After I got to the train station I took this pic of the parking lot with my cell phone:

That's a few inches of snow/slush. Location is the Chestnut Hill West station in NW Philadelphia, PA.

All of SEPTA's commuter rail lines were delayed, and I had to walk over to the CH East line, because I just missed the last train leaving from the West. Several other lines were down, so the office is a bit empty today. New Jersey got it much worse and is experiencing widespread flooding.

Somehow, I think we'll get by without FEMA, though.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Put the Blame Where it Lies

From the Philadelphia Stinky, no less:

We have to stop pointing the finger everywhere but at the very people who prey on us each day. Over time we have allowed our value system to erode. We refuse to hold people accountable for their actions and constantly make excuses for their inexcusable behavior. The incessant cry for tougher gun laws is a good example. Until we're ready to strictly enforce the current laws there is no reason for tougher ones.


Joseph Fox
Chief of Detectives
Philadelphia Police Department


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Saturday Night Range Report

Last night the girls stayed over at my parents' house, allowing Judith and I to get to the range with my dad.

Judith shot the Ruger 22/45 Mark III that I bought her last summer. This was the fourth time she's been to the range and the first time she shot this Ruger. She kept most of her shots on a pie plate at 7 yards, which was pretty good shooting for someone who's still a rank beginner. The Ruger functioned perfectly with CCI Mini Mag solids.

We had only 100 rounds of the Mini Mags, so after they were gone we tried some CCI Subsonics. It worked OK for about a mag then locked up when a round failed to fire. It took me pulling on the bolt while my dad inserted a flat tip screwdriver between the bolt and the breech face to get it open. After getting the round out, I ran a BoreSnake through the gun a couple of times to clean the chamber. I was then able to fire the offending round and 5 more shots. However, when Judith tried to put another magazine-full through the gun, it started failing to eject, with one empty caught between the bolt and the breech. At that point we gave up on the Subsonics. I'll be ordering a good supply of Mini Mags today from Natchez Shooters Supply.

Incidentally, that .22 LR Subsonic that misfired was the first time I've ever had a round of CCI ammunition fail to function correctly, and I've seen thousands of CCI ammo shot.

Dad shot an M-1895 Nagant revolver and his Colt 1911. He had some new production Hotshot ammo for the Nagant, made in Serbia. We figure it was probably made by Prvi Partizan. Anyway, it shoots well, is pretty accurate, and the empty cases fell right out of the cylinder. None of the case mouths split, something he's seen with other 7.62 Nagant ammo. He's shot Fiocchi 7.62 Nagant before and prefers this stuff.

Dad shot some of his handloads in the Colt, 230 grain full power Ball. It shot well.

Finally, I brought my Browning High Power Practical along with CCI Blazer Brass 9x19 115 grain FMJ ammo. This was my first time out with the BHP since I removed the magazine disconnector. The improvement was very noticeable. It is much easier to shoot accurately without the creepy trigger induced by the mag disconnector. I was using two Mec Gar 15 round magazines. I need to get a few more of them. As expected, the Browning worked perfectly.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pennsylvanians: Say NO To More Gun Control

Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution reads:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.

Unlike the Second Amendment to the US Consitution, there is no debate that this protects an individual right. In Ortiz v. Commonwealth (1996), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recognized that it protects an individual right of all Pennsylvanians, including those in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, from where most PA gun control proposals emanate.

Lately, unable to control spiraling crime and aided by their fellow travelers in the press, several liberal members of the Pennsylvania state legislature have introduced gun control proposals. E.g., House Bill 760 would require mandatory gun registration and payment of a $10 per gun annual fee.

State Representative Samuel Rohrer (R-Berks) has created a petition -- Say NO to More Gun Control -- which may be signed at his office or online, HERE. I urge all Pennsylvanians to sign Representative Rohrer's petition, which, coming from a member of the legislature, should carry more weight than most online petitions.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Google Desktop for Mac Eval OVER

I ended my evaluation of Google Desktop for Mac after reading this. So much for "do no evil."

Google Desktop for Mac

Google just released their Desktop for Mac, and I'm giving it a spin to see what advantage if any it gives over Spotlight. The one big thing I can think of offhand is that it indexes your Gmail, if you have an account. I tried the version for Windows and it was neat. Also, if you run a Google search in your browser, matching items on your Mac are displayed in the results window.

Google Desktop for Mac requires OS 10.4 or higher, and doesn't incorporate widgets, since they'd be redundant.

I installed it last night shortly before turning in and let it index my hard disk overnight, so I'm not sure how long it took. Of course, the speed of your machine and how much data you have on it will determine how long it takes.