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Thursday, July 24, 2014

[This Blog Intentionally Left Blank]

Sorry about the lack of posting. The past week has been a blur of activity, with a trip up north to visit the good folks at Smith & Wesson for some new product info and a factory tour (See for details).

Heading back today, things should be getting back to some approximation of normal soon. Should be posting the last Bloggershoot update/roundup tomorrow (the ordnance edition!), so stay tuned!

It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it...

That is all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Say Goodbye To Me in August...

Because this is happening:

What will happen when every episode of 'The Simpsons' is at your fingertips?
Every 'The Simpsons' episode is going online 'The Simpsons': FXX to air every episode in 12-day marathon.

This October, FXX will launch “Simpsons World,” a portal/wormhole that will allow viewers to access every single freakin’ episode of the series—552, at last count—through their computers, phones, or Krusty the Klown Alarm Klocks (warning: gets extremely hot when plugged in). All seasons of the animated comedy—25, at last count—will be searchable (bring me… every Barney belch????), and you will be able to both create your own playlists with the archive and share your favorite clips.
All 552 episodes of "The Simpsons" will be available online. Let's do some math, shall we? At 22 minutes per episode, that's 12,144 minutes. 202.4 hours. 8.4333 days of literally nothing but watching "The Simpsons".

If I took 6 hours a day to sleep and knocked a couple more hours a day to account for food, basic hygiene, etc., it would be 12.65 days straight. If I watched a mere four hours a day, it would take over 50 days to see the entire series.

Now, I yield to no one in my undying love for "The Simpsons" (well, at least for the first 15 or so seasons, before the writing *really* got stupid). I may very well sit down for chunks of time and watch the entire series.

Then again, the steady decline in quality might just be too depressing...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Whoa. Going through some boxes this past weekend, and what did I come across but this:

Fujitsu laptop, first generation Pentium, running Windows95. I bought this in July or August of 1997, before I wrote my Master's Thesis. It weighs about 8 pounds. On the front, and I wish I'd gotten a picture of it, is a 3 1/2" floppy drive. Yeah. remember those?

What surprised me was that it booted up. The first time, it hung up and I had to set it up using skills I'd looooong forgotten, but after that it cranked right over and booted up normally. I ran through and played a couple games I hadn't seen in almost 20 years. 

I find it interesting that I would have KILLED for this technology when I was in college. Word processing alone would have been worth every penny; it was either a typewriter or a borrowed 286 machine with Professional Write, a DOS-based program for word processing. Now it's a quaint relic, a curiosity, as our handheld phones are a thousand times more powerful. All in the time span of less than a generation...

I was almost tempted to plug it into the modem and see what happened when I got online with it. Would have messed with some sysadmin's head to see a Win95 machine logging into the system, I'll bet. Especially since it's running Windows Explorer version 4 or something like that... ;)

It's funny, too. I paid more for that laptop than we paid for our last three computers combined. Heck, I paid more for that laptop than I paid for a few cars. Combined. At the time, though, I had just started my first "real" job making real money; the Mrs. and I were living in a cheap apartment with paid-for cars; there was no reason not to spend a crazy amount of money on (at the time) cutting-edge electronics.

I think I'll hold onto it for 5-10 more years and see what it's worth as a collector's item...

That is all.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Diametrically Opposed Edicts...

Well, now, ain't this something...

California drought doesn't end brown lawn warnings
Laura Whitney and her husband, Michael Korte, don't know whether they're being good citizens during a drought or scofflaws.

On the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the threat of $500 fines, the Southern California couple received a letter from their city threatening a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn.
Now, my first thought reading this was, WTF, the town gives tickets for not watering your lawn? This is the nanny-state paradise, man. They've got everything so well under control that they've got the time, manpower, and money to devote to driving around town, spotting who has brown lawns, and writing up notices. I certainly hope this town has a 0% crime rate.

Secondly, WTF? The state has mandated water restrictions which allow watering only once every other week, which pretty much precludes having the lush, green lawn that the city mandates. In order abide by one mandate, they have to break another. Talk about Scylla and Charybdis! They're either going to be fined $500 by the town for having a brown lawn, or hit for excessive water use by the state.

I wonder how that works, I really do. Being the suspicious sort, I can't help but wonder if the city is using the water ban to its advantage to fatten the town's coffers. They know that residents can't water their lawn often enough to prevent browning, as per order from the state, so they send out notices to a certain number of people. I'm sure not everyone contested the notices, so the town probably raked in a good payday for limited work...

I mean, it's not like this would be the first time something shady like this happened, right?

That is all.

Another dispatch from...
(image courtesy of Robb Allen)

Can't Stop Laughing...

Nope, I'm sorry. I tried working up even faux indignation over this, and I just can't do it. Mainly because I can't stop laughing long enough. Watch and enjoy:

Dude, you just got your ass kicked by a 79-year old man. I don't care how "edgy" you think you are with your conspiracy theories and whatnot, but in the "having the common sense G-d gave gravel" department, ya came up short. Pitifully short. To Buzz Aldrin, sir, I salute you, yet again, for your service to this country as well as punching that idiot right in his snot locker.

Even if we accept the premise that the moon landing was faked (which I don't, more on that in a moment), Buzz Aldrin was a jet fighter pilot in the beginning, and flew missions in F86 Sabre Jets in Korea. The man saw about the hairiest form of fighter combat there is--earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, mind you--and this imbecile just called him a coward. I would say this dude is dumber than dogshit, but I don't want to offend dogshit.

And let's dispense with this idiotic notion that the moon landing was faked. You're talking about one of the greatest achievements in world history, happening at a time of incredible tension between two superpowers engaged in the space race. In your fevered little mind, the US faked the moon landing so that we could be first, and then...

...Kept it secret for the past 45 years? Really? The same government that can't find its own ass with both hands and a bloodhound perpetuated the biggest hoax in world history? They claim to have landed on the moon, with hundreds if not thousands involved, and in all of the past 45 years NO ONE involved in the program has stepped forward? With the Soviets breathing down our necks the whole time?

Whatever they've got you on, cut the dose, man.

That is all.

Friday, July 18, 2014

10-Second Seventh Annual Northeast Bloggershoot Update

The Virginia contingent will be staying at the Extended Stay America in Nashua, NH:

Extended Stay America
Nashua - Manchester
2000 Southwood Dr.
Nashua, NH 03063
(603) 577-9900

From Mopar's glowing review, plus it only being 26 miles from the Sooper Seekrit range (and you can get there easily without going through MA), it sounded like a slam-dunk.

Let's get a head count as to who will be staying here (or nearby, or doesn't mind driving out to meet us for dinner), and then find a restaurant for dinner at 8.

Two weeks from, heck, RIGHT NOW!!!

That is all.

The Story Just Keeps Getting Better...

Let me get out my shocked face...

NY Times document analysis indicates GM lied about fatal crashes
The company's internal reports reveal answers; its responses to regulators play dumb.

Here's a brief refresher on the ignition scandal: Defective ignition switches in about 2.6 million older GM cars didn't have sufficient torque resistance. That means that when jostled, they could allow the key to turn in the switch, shutting the cars off. That's bad because the fault could impair the driver's ability to control the car and disable the airbags at the same time. GM says this issue was a factor in 13 deaths—the actual number is likely higher. Now it's becoming clear that GM knew about the issue much earlier than it's let on.
I know, I know. It is absolutely shocking that a company knew about a blatantly unsafe problem with their product and did nothing. Especially when doing something would have:

a) cost money; and
b) made them look really really incompetent.

But wait! It gets even betterer!

The government knew about GM ignition problems and did nothing
Driving is the most dangerous thing most people do on a regular basis. But what happens when the companies that build our cars skimp on the equipment we rely on to keep ourselves safe?

GM's recent wave of recalls reveals the ugly truth: The brutal competition for car sales can lead automakers to cut corners, including in crucial safety gear like airbags, steering, and brakes. The bottom line is that some automakers can't be relied on to always put customer safety first.
What's even better about this second story is the serious disconnect from reality between "libertarians want there to be no government oversight" and "oh, the harsh reality is that even when there is strict government oversight, things still get totally AFU." Even though the NHTSA was notified about GM's problems, they did, well, just what big government agencies do whenever there's a big crisis involving a large political block (unions): Nothing.

Oh, that eeeeeeevil big business! GM cutting all those corners to save money! You see, this is why we need huge, inefficient bureaucracies! Because without a giant group devoted to overseeing the safety of the cars and trucks on America's highways, who would ignore blatant faults and warnings? Those fact-finding missions aren't going to fund themselves!

Of course, the finger points back to big business, because many of the NHTSA regulators wound up leaving the agency to become lobbyists for the automakers. In their twisted way of thinking, it's the fault of business that government employees - the ones that spend years learning how government operates and how to get around it - go to the private sector once they've secured a cushy pension.

You know what the really funny thing is? The libertarian solution WOULD have worked had the government not stepped in and shoveled billions of taxpayer dollars at GM. GM was about to go under - which, from all indications we're seeing now would have been a mercy killing - and the government stepped in to stop the Darwinian winnowing of the unfit to survive. Had the government not bailed GM out, they might have gone out of business or been sold - potentially sparing many years of defective cars causing crashes.

But yeah, blame big business, because giving the government more power isn't going to totally blow up in our faces. Again.

That is all.

Friday Car Pr0n #39

I was momentarily stumped when trying to come up with today's car. My first thought was towards some of the cars I had as a young man, like the 1986 GTI that I bought right out of college (so I could give my Buick to my sister, who promptly killed it).

Then I thought about this:

1965 Buick Riviera GS

The Riviera was always a funny model. Neither fish nor fowl, it had the whole "Jekyll and Hyde" thing going on. It didn't know if it wanted to be a luxury car or a muscle car, so it tried to straddle both worlds. Ford did it with the Thunderbird for a long while, after bloating it from a two-seater in the early part of the '50s to the gigantor models in the '70s.

The Riviera also followed a spectacular path, too. Hitting the market in the early 1960s as the displacement wars got in full swing, it started out with two motors available: a 400 CI plant, and a 425 CI plant. Neither are small in any sense of the word. The Riviera bloated in the '70s until it was downsized, and switched to front wheel drive as the decade of disco ground to a close. Downsized again in the mid-'80s as rear-drive all but died out, it spent the next decade or so languishing as a squishy, floaty, grotesquely underpowered shell of its former self.

Then, as happens many times, especially when talking about General Motors, the car underwent a renaissance only to be killed off a few years later. They introduced the supercharged 3.8L V6 into the Riviera, eventually giving the smaller, lighter late-'90s Riviera more horsepower than the 455 CI plant in the mid-'70s. And then they killed it, much like they killed the Cadillac Allanté in the mid-'90s right after finally getting it right with the Northstar V8...

Leave it to Government Motors to, yet again, screw up a good thing...

That is all.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good Luck To You And The Red Sox...

I wish them well. I really do.

UAE plans first Arab spaceship to Mars in 7 years
The United Arab Emirates, already home to the world's tallest tower, is now reaching for the stars. The energy-rich country on the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula announced plans Wednesday to establish a space program to send the first Arab spaceship to Mars in 2021.

The ruler of the UAE's emirate of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said the mission will prove the Arab world is still capable of delivering scientific contributions to humanity, despite the many conflicts across the Middle East.
If they approach this the same way they approached the tower - basically, throw dumptrucks full of money at the best and brightest in the engineering world - they just might be able to approximate something resembling a space program. Get to Mars in 7 years? Assuming they mean "launch a rocket capable of reaching Mars in 7 years", that might be possible; actually getting there in 7 is a little tighter, considering the trip itself takes anywhere from 8 - 10 months.

With the US seemingly out of the space business, it's going to fall on other countries or private industry to get Americans back into space. The latter doesn't concern me anywhere near as much as the former. Given how dependent we are on satellite communications, not being able to get crews up launch, repair, and maintain our critical communication infrastructure is rather frightening.

Part of that "fundamental transformation," to be sure...

That is all.

"With G-d As My Witness...

...I thought ping pong balls could fly." Mad props to Joseph in IL for allowing me to use that awesome WRKP line again. He sends in this ridiculous story that should be good for a larf.

Pilot mistake means pingpong balls rain on highway
A pilot who dropped 3,000 pingpong balls that were redeemable for prizes missed a crowd assembled for the stunt and instead hit a nearby interstate.

Organizers immediately called off the contest. Aaron Moon and helpers on Saturday told revelers at Blackfoot Pride Days not to risk retrieving the pingpong balls amid high-speed traffic because organizes still planned to pass out the prizes.
Man, that had to have been one crazy commute, no? All of a sudden your car is getting pelted by hail the size of ping pong ba- WAIT! Those really ARE ping pong balls!

I'm guessing that, due to the light weight, there was little-to-no-damage done to the cars, except perhaps for folks that panicked. It's funny that the pilot didn't factor gravity into his assessment. He apparently thought that ping pong balls had some inherent glide capability.

At least the ping pong balls didn't hit the ground like wet sacks of cement...

That is all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things Writers Know...

Sometimes it still takes me aback that I am a real, honest-to-goodness, professional writer. I mean, I have a degree in Biology. I learned the Krebs Cycle, for crying out loud. And while few 10 year olds respond "I want to wash test tubes" when asked what they want to be when they grow up, even fewer say "I want to stare at a computer screen hoping against hope that the words come soon" either...

So, every once in a while, you have to savor the little victories. Like finding a great keyboard. I know that Marko swears by the IBM Model M, the ancient and noble original keyboard descended from the stone keyboard brought down from the Mount by Moses. He recently discovered a newer version that he likes, and while I was tempted (trust me on this one, folks, if you want a solid gold recommendation on a piece of writing equipment, ask a writer), the price tag was a little steep.

Fortunately, my tastes are much simpler. I found this setup at BJs for $29.99. Disgustingly easy to set up (literally, I plugged in the USB dongle and it recognized both keyboard and mouse instantly. Not quickly. Instantly.), and just the right amount of play in the keys. I don't need a lot of noise out of my keys (I cut my teeth on a thermal print typewriter, back in the before-time when the earth first cooled and computers were the size of Winnebagos and about as fast).

A few goals for me:

1. Don't eat anything over the new keyboard. Seriously. It's nasty. Back before we got the all-in-one, we had a laptop. TheBoy questioned why we had a peripheral keyboard plugged into it one time, noting rightly that it seemed superfluous. I literally did not say a word, but reached down, picked the keyboard up, turned it upside down and gave it a few cursory whacks.

The pile of detritus that fell out of it answered my son's question right away.

2. It's not the keyboard's fault that the internet is slow or the computer is gakking during an update. Seriously, Jay. Push the chair back from the desk, go take a brisk walk around the neighborhood, and reboot the system. Hammering on the keyboard doesn't speed anything up, it only hastens the demise of the keyboard.

3. Write more. Whether it's for the blog, on a piece of fiction, or perhaps even the road rage compilation novel folks have been clamoring for. I swear, folks would not believe the stuff I've seen on the roads, both here and in MA. VA drivers are different than those in MA, not necessarily better, but certainly less profane. There's a reason there's a warning on the Earthf**ker...

Right now, though, I'm diggin' the new keyboard...

That is all.

Everything - But Especially This Post - Is Awesome

OMG. I *HOWLED* at this. It may have something to do with having seen "The Lego Movie" about five times in the past 2-3 weeks...

Lego Representations of the 50 States
My favorite has to be Delaware — it reminds me of my favorite line from Wayne’s World: “We’re in…Delaware.” :lol: Which do you like the best? Do you think your state is accurately portrayed?
My favorite, natch, is Texas:

How can you not like a giant Caddy convertible with monster truck tires and horns?

Here's their representation of Massachusetts:

Yeah, see, they kinda missed out on the whole overbearing nanny state telling you what to do.

Which state is your favorite?

That is all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seventh Annual Northeast Bloggershoot Update, Part II

Update #1 here.

Original post here.

Again, the recap:

What? Seventh Annual Northeast Bloggershoot

Who? Any and all bloggers, commenters, readers, lurkers, etc. in the Northeast area, or those passing through, or anyone crazy enough to show up.

When? Saturday, August 2nd.

Where? Why, Doubletrouble's sooper seekrit range, of course!

Why? Shootin' stuff is fun? Trying out new hardware is fun? Getting together with a couple dozen of your tribe, combined with guns and reactive targets, is a recipe for a good time!

Dave H.
Yankeefried (+ 2 possible guests)
Wally & A.
Mopar & Cher
Wandering Neurons
Daniel in Brookline
OldNFO (maybe) (D'oh! Next year, NFO!)
Glenn B. +2
Your humble host
Mr. & Mrs. DoubleTrouble (of course, and thanks again!!!)
Old Windways
Andrew +1
Bubblehead Les
JD & Mrs. JD

And, the standard caveat:

As with every year, this is a "pack-in, pack-out" shoot - if you want to bring a 1:1 scale papier mache model of the Lunar Rover to shoot the hell out of, go right ahead. Just be prepared to drag the bullet-riddled carcass out with you. We can call the sub shop for lunch, but someone should step up to take care of the lunch order so Mrs. Doubletrouble doesn't have to deal with that again...

Okay, I should be in the area Friday night by 7 or so, assuming that the traffic gods don't detain me too badly. I should be able to make a late(r) dinner. Saturday night I'd still like to hit KC's one more time; if everyone's good with that, let's get a head count and I'll get in touch with the folks there to see if we can't hosey the upstairs area again.

With that said, where are folks that are staying overnight planning on staying? I still need to book a hotel room, and it has to be in NH, for fairly obvious reasons. I know there aren't a lot close to the range, but I know folks have stayed in both Nashua and Manchester with reasonable success. I remember from Nashua that it was ~ 40 - 45 minutes to the Sooper Seekrit range; anyone have better luck coming from Manchester?

In any case, where's everyone staying? I'd love a chance to get together Friday night and chat, and ditto Saturday after dinner at KC's. If we can get a good number of folks in one hotel (or hotels in reasonably close proximity), we could gather in a lobby and perhaps even indulge in an adult beverage or two (I will refrain, from the gout, so there will even be a driver if needed). Let me know where everyone's staying, if we can, let's get a consensus and I'll make reservations.

One more point, regarding ordnance: Wally has graciously offered to bring a few machine guns for folks to play with. He has a very simple request:
I'll have an MG or two available for the extended family at NEBS, so here's the skinny on what to bring.  There will be an M16 (byo brass cased) and probably a 308 auto (BYO brass cased/non magnetic projectile - sorry to be picky)
IOW, no steel cased (Wolf/Tulammo/Brown Bear), no steel core (surplus). If you want to shoot a machine gun, spring for brass-cased ammo please.

Additionally, Alan will be bringing his semi-auto Bren in .303 Brit, so be sure to bring some of that if you'd like to try it. Mopar just picked up a Serbu .50 BMG and will be bringing it as well, so if you want to try your hand at something BIG (that's not the cannon or the recoilless rifle...), find some .50 BMG to bring along...

Can't wait to see everyone in 2.5 weeks!

That is all.

I'm Very Truly Sorry...

Joseph in IL sent this story in. You have been warned...

Popping stalled truck's hood yields scaly surprise
When a woman's pickup stalled on a street in Santa Fe, New Mexico, local chef Jackson Ault stopped to lend a hand.

Ault and the driver both ended up with a surprise Thursday when Ault popped the hood and found a brown and yellow python slithering across the engine block.
I think, in the grand scheme of things that would result in "Jay running around and screaming like a little girl," finding a damn 20-pound python under the hood of the Earthf**ker would be right up near the top of the list. I mean, I guess it's logical - one of the critters that like to make their homes in car motors are mice, which are nice, tasty snake chow when you get right down to it.

Why do I hear Samuel L. Jackson right now (NSFW):

I do have to wonder, though: Was the cause of the stalling the ... [this is the part I'm sorry about] ... serpentine belt?

That is all.

Fuel Efficiency, A Perspective...

#1 Blogdaughter sends in this interesting story about fuel efficient American cars and trucks... from the 1950s through the 1970s...

5 fuel-efficient American classics
Classic American cars, while full of style and presence, weren’t known for their ability to stretch miles out of a gallon of fuel. These are five of our favorite exceptions to the rule, all capable of at least 20 mpg:
The first of which is an extremely interesting model:

(picture from here)

1976 Plymouth Duster:
The Feather Duster was an interesting and little-known response to the 1970s fuel crisis. Unlike today’s diesel and hybrid options, it carried just a small premium over the normal Duster, a $50 “economy” option that substituted aluminum for steel in several areas that brought the weight down to about 2,700 lbs. The Feather Duster was capable of up to 36 mpg.
Now, I suspect that the Duster that got 36 MPG had the infamous "slant six" engine (the 198 CI model, not the 225 CI one, if I were a betting man). I'd also gather that the 36 MPG figure comes from an unrestricted (i.e. none of the modern emissions components that robbed cars of power in the late '70s through the early '90s) and represents highway driving of an extremely conservative nature. Very interesting that they were able to achieve that kind of mileage by a simple weight reduction, though.

Some of the other cars on the list aren't as surprising. The Crosley Hotshot, not exactly a household name, offered an astonishing 48 MPG in 1950. With a 44 CI motor, though, it's doubtful this car could hold its own on the highway - remember that my Harley has 88 CI, and while it's heavy for a motorcycle, it's still at least half  the weight of the Crosley, with double the engine... The Corvair isn't all that surprising, either - 24 MPG in the days before emissions restrictions really doesn't wow me, especially for a car that was considered compact for the time.

I had a 1983 Cadillac Coupe De Ville with the horrible 4.1L V8 engine. On the highway, it would get low 20s MPG without fail. It also had a 25 gallon tank, which meant it had between 500 and 600 mile range. We had friends with a cabin on a lake in upstate Maine, and one time we took the Caddy up there over July 4th with full camping gear, a long weekend's worth of clothes, food for everyone, and other assorted items in the trunk. With room to spare.

Oh, and there were four snow tires in the trunk as well - and it still got > 20 MPG...

What is surprising is the Cutlass with the 400 CI V8 that got 20 MPG. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the 20 MPG figure was achieved at max efficiency: constant speed, no windows open, no external devices robbing power from the motor (AC/radio/etc.). The Earthf**ker gets 19 MPG on the highway under average conditions; I suspect that if I were to really streamline things I could see 20 MPG (or at least 19.5...).

One thing that hasn't changed is that making a vehicle lighter saves gas. I wonder what could be done with the materials we currently have available, from carbon fiber to titanium and other exotic metals. Oh, the car would cost a ridiculous amount of money (and, as such, would be subject to the same mathematical scrutiny as applied to high-priced hybrids and electric-only cars), but it would be an interesting exercise to see just how good a standard gas engine can be on gas...

That and it'd be neat as heck to have a car made out of the same material as the Snubbie from Hell™...

That is all.