Monday, December 06, 2010

Loft bed

This is the loft bed/desk I've been building for the past few days.

The room I use as an office is  8' by 10', with a 3x3' corner of that used by the attic stairs--plus it has 2 large windows and a total of 3 doors.   Most of the time we've lived here, we have blocked off one or the other of the doors--otherwise there isn't much useful space in the room.  That is why the picture is different colors-I couldn't get far enough away to get the whole thing in the picture at one time, so I took 3 and spliced them together.

I re-used a lot of stuff, including some lumber from a previous loft bed.  The back of the rear shelf rests on a 2x4 strung across the bed legs, the front hangs from 1/4 threaded rod inserted into T nuts in the mattress support.   The rail is 1/2" electrical conduit inserted into holes drilled into the wood.  The first and last bar are screwed in place to hold the entire assembly together.

I'm very happy with the result so far.  More desk space in the same basic area, as much storage, the lights work better with less glare--and there's now a guest bed, at least for a reasonably agile single guest.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Cat O'clock

Our apartment is fairly small--big enough for the two of us, but fairly small for extra people.  I would call it a 1 1/2 bedroom, with the tiny bedroom used as the office.   There is not room for a regular bed without giving up one of the desks, and since we have rented the downstairs apartment there's no room for an overnight guest.  I decided to build a loft bed,  with my desk under it.    This meant moving most of the contents of the office into a pile in the living room, including an old sweep-second clock.

Cat was fascinated by the seconds hand, and tried to attack it...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cheap Harbor Freight airbrush kit

As I got better with the construction of my holsters, I got frustrated with the finish--Black was fine--if there is a light spot, just slap more dye on.  Dark brown was OK if not spectacular, but medium colors turned out very uneven, and the clear over-coat was very hard to get smooth.  I finally gave up on trying to use daubers or sponges to get a nice finish, and bought an airbrush.  I already had a small air compressor with tank meant for an air stapler.

The airbrush made a huge difference,  I got a mid-grade Paasche--(single action, external mix) for the first one, and it works very well--I am able to do light colors evenly, and the clear coat is miles better--Like the difference between a car painted with a roller, and one painted properly.    The problem here is cost--even if you already have a compressor, few hobbyists will do enough leatherwork to justify the expense.

After I bought the Paasche, I found 3 different sets at Harbor Freight.  I decided to try their 'Central Pneumatic Quick Change Air Brush Kit" on sale for $8.99, regularly $15.99

The kit contains a really flimsy looking and feeling airbrush body, made mostly of plastic with a plastic trigger, 5 thin-walled plastic bottles that snap to the body, each with an adjustable nozzle, a thin plastic air hose, and an air line adapter.

Despite the initial impression of cheapness, this airbrush kit works surprisingly well.  I haven't done a whole holster yet, but I have dyed and clear-coated some scrap leather.  The end result is as good as the Paasche, and absolutely worth the money.  If you have a source of compressed air, it is probably worth the money even for one or two holsters.

The Paasche would likely be better for fine detail work, more controllable and a nicer trigger.  The Harbor Freight's spray pattern starts at about the middle width of the Paasche's widest tip, and goes wider still--but the range appears to be perfect for most holster work.  The Harbor Freight seems to need less air to run, and cleaning should be much easier with less disassembly.  Since the liquid nozzles are part of the bottle, changing colors is trivial, with no cleaning necessary between solutions.   I doubt the Harbor Freight kit will last as long as the Paasche, but I would be amazed if it didn't last long enough to be a great value.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prison time for a state line

Brian Aitken's Mistake - Reason Magazine

New Jersey has a complicated set of laws that makes many non-violent acts with guns felonies--acts that are completely ordinary and legal in other states.  Aitken was caught with legal, unloaded guns locked in his trunk.  He was either moving which would have been legal, or he was keeping a drunken party from having access to guns, a felony.  The judge disallowed testimony that he was moving.

Is a right really protected if the rules are complex, and the penalty for making a mistake is years in prison?  I doubt I would risk owning guns in New Jersey.
 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Air Guns Classified as Firearms

ATF Ruling 2010-4 - Certain AR/M-16-style Air Guns Classified as Firearms

This is an ATF ruling that was briefly posted, then taken down--but not before Google made the copy I've linked here.   Apparently the ruling has been rescinded.

At first glance, the story seems pretty silly, even considering that they changed their mind-High-end Airsoft replicas counted as guns, because they could theoretically be converted.  Although the replicas in question aren't the chintzy plastic things you see in Walmart, they are still essentially toys--More plastic, and the metal parts are mostly a zinc alloy similar to what is used in Hot Wheels or Matchbox toy cars.

It gets more complicated than that.The ATF distinguishes between 'gun parts' and 'The Gun'.  Parts are mostly unregulated, but a bare frame or receiver with none of the parts needed to make it fire is considered  The Gun,  subject to the same regulations as a fully-functioning firearm.   Like a number of rifles, the AR-15/M16 has a 2 piece receiver, with an upper and lower.  In most 2 piece designs, the ATF says that the upper is The Gun.  The AR was in use before serial numbers were required on The Gun, and Colt was putting the serial number on the lower.  Apparently rather than make Colt move the serial number, the ATF simply declared the lower as The Gun on AR-type rifles, despite the inconsistency with other types.   Had the ATF been consistent rather than expedient, convertibility of Airsofts  would not be an issue--while there are similarities between the toy and real lowers, the uppers would be nothing alike.

The toy lowers did not work with a real upper out of the box, the ATF had to modify them.  This is another issue.  With enough work, it is possible to make an AK-47 receiver (The Gun) from stamped sheet metal, a zip gun from an old-style car antenna, or even a handgun from a billet of steel.  These things obviously start out as 'not guns', and at some point turn into guns. The standard is typically 80% complete before they are officially a gun--although I don't know how you measure 80%.

So, did the ATF have to do more than 20% of the work to make these toy guns fire real ammo?

Another interesting question--what if the toy lower won't fit any current upper without modification, but someone builds an upper that does work?  Would the lower still be considered The Gun, or in this case would the ATF consider that upper to fall under the 'non-AR'  rules, and consider it The Gun?

Or should this be considered in the same way as cap and Ball pistols?  They are loaded similarly to muzzle loaders and are not considered firearms.  The cylinder  to convert to modern ammo is merely a gun part, and is also not regulated--but once assembled, it is now legally a gun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Collective Rights

Before DC vs. Heller, one of the arguments used to justify ignoring the second amendment was that it referred to a collective right, rather than an individual right.  Since the Heller decision, they like to point out that it was a 5-4 decision.  That is true as far as it goes, but the 5-4 split was only on the extent of the right--If you read the decision, you would see that all 9 justices recognized an individual right.  

What has never been clear to me is what a collective right is, and how it would differ from no second amendment at all.  There's also the 'only for militia' interpretation-which almost always denigrates the unorganized militia.  Apparently in this view, the only arms protected are the ones issued by the government for militia service--and if they decide not to issue to you, tough.  Again...how is this different than no right at all?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Don't drink from the toilet

Rules in Chandler restrooms: don't drink from toilets

A new City Hall is using water recycled from the cooling system to flush toilets. The city had to get a building code variance to avoid coloring the water, but they still require signs telling people not to drink from the toilet.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Earcandy

Earcandy is a small applet for Ubuntu (and I believe other distributions using Pulseaudio) that can be used to automatically control and prioritize your sound based on rules you select.  I can be listening to music on Rhythmbox, and when I play a video in my browser, the music shuts off until the video finishes.  If I get a Skype call, all other sound will stop, without me having to do anything.

The defaults needed a little tweaking on my system--Earcandy takes  over the volume control for individual applications, and the default for Rhythmbox was at 100%, giving distortion.  Adjustment has to be done in Earcandy rather than the app itself--The app control will move, but immediately resets to the Earcandy setting.   You can select whether or not to fade in gradually, and the fade duration--but the fastest fade setting is still too slow.    Two videos playing at the same time in Chrome both played.

Finally some justification for Pulseaudio.  Handy, but not worth the hassle caused by Pulseaudio.

Update:  Not stable enough on my system--I've had it hunt for volume, or give pops and ticks.  Not awful, but I quit using it.

Automatic Time

I normally get up with my iPod beeping quietly about 10 seconds before my standard cheap and loud alarm clock goes off.  This is enough time to get me up, and to the alarm clock, so I can shut it off as soon as it goes on.  That level of synchronization was accidental at first, but now I make the effort to maintain it.

I forgot to re-set the clock this morning, so it went off an hour early.  I shut it off and went back to bed, expecting my iPod to wake me at the proper time.

My iPod however managed to go off an hour late--the alarm was set for 7am, and the iPod changed itself back to standard time--but the alarm itself didn't go off until 8am Standard Time, even though the alarm still read 7.    No big deal, I didn't have anything pressing to get up for today--but I'm not sure how they managed to do that particular error.

Not the first time I have had similar problems--I used to rely on an 'atomic' clock that listens for a radio signal every 2am.  The only obvious setting was to change time zones, and the clock would not always hear the signal to re-set itself.  When changing batteries, or when daylight savings came it would not reliably re-set itself so I 'd have to rely on some other method.

I have been making a living as some sort of technician for most of my life, I can solder, I can run Linux,  I can even set up and run Windows if I have to.    But for some reason,  I can only set an alarm clock properly from scratch about 75% of the time.    I'm glad to see that Apple is only a little better...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

New York: End Use of Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution, Protect the Public's Health | Human Rights Watch

New York: End Use of Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution, Protect the Public's Health | Human Rights Watch

One of the problems with prosecuting victimless crimes is competing goals. While prostitutes should absolutely be encouraged to use condoms, that is not a goal of prosecutors. They are rewarded for success, and public health is not one of their goals. This change makes sense--Condom use is a far more important goal.

J Frame IWB

This is a prototype J frame IWB I'm sending to JayG for evaluation.  I'm not fond of the revolver IWB holsters I've tried, I'm trying to address those issues with this holster--mainly trying to minimize the protrusion of the cylinder on the back side of the holster.    I put a U shaped leather spacer in behind the cylinder, to give it a flatter profile--it is a little better, but still not quite where I want to be.  I think I can get there, but I need to work some more on how I set up the press I'm using for molding.

Working with this holster also brings me to some advice--don't get cheap leather if you want your holsters to look good, it is much harder to work with.    The leather I used here was on sale at a fantastic price, but from now on I will stick with the better grades.  I have been using that hide for experiments like this.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Grocery IQ Review

Grocery IQ is a free grocery list application for Iphone and Ipod Touch (and I think some other smartphones).  I've got the version for the iPod tOuch.

The initial screen has selections across the bottom for list, favorites, stores, coupons and more.  More is basically a preferences screen for initial setup.

Favorites is where you can build a master list of the groceries you typically buy.  You can assign items to a particular store, or to 'any store'.   You can search for an item, input it by barcode number, use a camera if the ipod has one to scan the barcode, or merely enter an item.  When you search, the app will try to guess what you are looking for, so you do not have to type the entire item name.

Unfortunately for many items, there is no generic choice, just a choice between different brands.  Searching for "basmati"  brings up more than 50 specific brand name items with basmati rice, but not 'basmati rice' itself--you will have to type the whole thing, and assign it an aisle.  This is probably the most annoying part of the app.

The 'list' section shows a list of just the selected items.  You can again choose 'any store' or a specific store.  If you want a particular item once, but do not want to add it to favorites, you can add it to either the 'all stores' or a specific store list here.

The 'stores' section lets you reorganize the order of aisles to match the specific store (with a different order in a different store), and select whether that store will display 'all stores' items.

The app is sponsored by coupons.com.  If you are on a Windows system, you can get printable coupons related to your list--unfortunately you will have to install an application that will prevent you from making multiple copies.  Although Wife's system can boot to Windows, we don't do it enough to be worthwhile.   I am also not particularly keen to install software from an advertising company.

A relatively simple app, but does the job well. Even without the coupons, it is worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Condition Yellow

Back in high school driver's ed, (around 1979 or so) I was taught IPDE. That stands for Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. When driving, you should always be looking around, trying to identify potential problems, predict how a problem might unfold, decide what to do about it, then if necessary, execute your plan. If you see a car in your mirror weaving through traffic, you have identified. You can predict he is likely to squeeze in between you and the car ahead, you can decide to make some extra room, make sure you can safely swerve, or merely be ready to hit the brakes. If he does cut you off, you don't waste time figuring out what needs to be done, you already have a plan to execute. With experience, much of this can become automatic--I scan other traffic without conscious effort.
People involved in concealed carry talk a lot about Condition Yellow. This comes from Jeff Cooper's States of Awareness color codes. Condition Yellow is a basic state of awareness-paying enough attention to your surroundings that most threats won't take you completely by surprise. (Short version of Cooper's colors: White, oblivious. Yellow, basic alertness. Orange, paying attention to something specific you may need to deal with, Red, ready to fight.)
There is a good deal of confusion about what Condition Yellow means. I have seen people new to carrying a gun say that they are hanging up their guns, keeping condition yellow all the time is too tiring. They are doing it wrong. Anti-gun people believe it means fearfully scanning for danger all the time like a rabbit. They don't understand it either. Condition Yellow is not limited to those carrying guns. It is not a state of paranoid hyper-vigilance. It is a basic awareness of your surroundings, coupled with the knowledge that you might have to take some action to protect yourself.
It is nothing more than the first step of the IPDE concept learned in Driver's Ed, expanded beyond driving. Simply pay enough attention that you can usually identify situations before they get serious. Defensive carry of a gun involves no more fear, no more alertness than defensive driving.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fulton Farms

A bunch of in-laws and family went to Fulton Farms to pick pumpkins. Really a pretty good deal, especially if you have kids. There's animals, a corn maze, hay bale maze, and a pile of hay bales with 2 slides and an area of loose hay to jump in.  The wagons take you on a 10 minute or so ride out to the pumpkin patch, you get to pick a pumpkin, all for a bit less than Home Depot was charging for similar pumpkins (Assuming you aren't two and pick a tiny little green pumpkin, like my grandson did).   A wristband is good all day, although only one pumpkin per band is allowed.   Grandson really didn't want to leave the pile of hay bales.

The Cafe had something I see in many family-owned businesses that turns me off--a bunch of crabby notes to the staff, reminding them to follow various rules.  No discounts without the approval of Mrs. Fulton.  The handbook specifically says no text messages while working.  Field Hands use the back bathroom.   If you run a retail business, and must complain to your staff via notes,  make a strong effort to do it where the customers don't have to see it.   The pumpkin soft-serve was good, though.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Get Off My Lawn

Walking back to my house today, I saw a guy on the porch. My initial thought was that he had no business there...but a split second later, remembered that we have rented the downstairs apartment, and for the first time in 17 years, there's someone not related to me who lives downstairs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Semantics

I've been debating with Joan Peterson, a Brady Campaign board member who blogs as Japete at commongunsense.com

Joan had been writing as if she is just an ordinary woman from Minnesota who believes in common sense gun laws.  Based on a blog post by WeerdBeard, I asked Japete (I wasn't sure of her identity at this point) if she was a Brady Campaign board member or similar.  She first demanded "why do you need to know this information.  She finally wound up admitting to being a member of the local Million Mom March (A Brady subsidiary group), and on the board of several anti domestic violence groups--but for some reason repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny whether she was a Brady board member, although she clearly denied being a paid staff member.

After a bit of Googling, I found that Joan Peterson is listed on the Brady Campaign web page as a Brady Campaign board member and the President of the Minnesota Million Mom Chapter.   Both Japete and Joan Peterson had a sister who was murdered with a gun by an ex in 1992.  Both are from Minnesota, and are associated with the Brady Campaign and the Million Mom March.  I am convinced.  I cannot think of any sensible reason to be evasive about being a member of the Brady board, unless you are trying to be deceptive.

Evasion and deception are very common on her blog,  Joan has repeatedly said that she does not want to ban guns--she just wants to keep them out of the hands of the wrong people.  Like most of her statements, it needs examination and clarification--although she says she does not support a gun ban, she does support a renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  According to her, banning many guns isn't a gun ban--you have to ban all guns for it to count as a gun ban.   She won't say what the second amendment protects--as far as I can tell, she thinks it protects the government's right to arm the national guard or something.

She wants to end the gun show loophole by requiring background checks on all gun purchases at a gun show rather than just the purchases from dealers.  Even when directly asked she will not say whether she wants to require background checks on all sales, nor does she say how she will handle purchases where the initial meeting is at a gun show, but the actual transaction takes place somewhere else.

Joan thinks that it is wrong to criticize US Representative Carolyn McCarthy, because  McCarthy's husband was shot by a spree shooter.   This especially applies to criticism of the laws McCarthy proposes or her ignorance of the details of her laws.  (McCarthy is the one who was questioned on the content of the 1994 assault weapons ban, and was unable to correctly explain what a barrel shroud was--she thought it was 'the shoulder thing that goes up')

Recently we have been discussing laws on machine guns.  From 1934, civilian machine gun ownership came under heavy federal regulation.  Since then, only 2 legal owners have been convicted of machine gun crime.  Despite this near perfection among legal owners, in 1986 the Hughes Amendment closed the registry--existing registered guns could still be bought and sold, but newly built or imported ones could not be owned by civilians.  I've asked several times how this 50 year near perfect record required further restrictions--and if that record wasn't good enough, what gun law would be good enough?   She made disparaging comments about unrestricted sale of machine guns, which isn't close to what we were discussing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

XKCD gets it right again.



This has got to be a dream of almost all computer geeks.  I'm almost always frustrated when I call tech support--calling them is a last resort, I've already rebooted everything, checked connectivity, made sure it was plugged in.   I understand that probably 95% of their customers are clueless, but you would think they could do some triage based on the problem report--if it is "The internet is broke" there's one script, but "I seem to be having a DNS problem--I can access sites if I know the IP address, but I can't connect by URL" gets a higher level of support automatically.  

And if you are at all technical, XKCD is a great comic.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fence Repair

Our back yard is surrounded by a 6 foot high stockade fence. Most of it has been there longer than we have, at least 17 years with little maintenance. Several years ago a neighbor's tree fell and damaged one section, several trees on the property line are considerably larger than they were when the fence was installed pushing the fence inward-The tree to the left was originally on the other side of the fence. As it grew it pushed a section of fence with it, leaving a gap of about a foot. Many of the pickets were missing their tips. Between the trees and the damaged sections, it was not only ugly, but close to losing its ability to hold the dogs in. A couple of spots had some very ugly temporary repairs to maintain dog resistance.

Another issue was the location of the gate. I put it in when we got our dog Bella, to finish enclosing the yard. I set it up so the back door of the downstairs was inside the fence--at the time it made the most sense. Since then I have separated the house back into two separate apartments, built stairs into the back yard from the upstairs apartment, and moved upstairs. We plan to assign the back yard to the upstairs apartment when we rent the downstairs.

I decided to move the gate and do some slightly more permanent repairs to the fence--but I didn't want to spend much, because under any circumstances the fence isn't going to last all that much longer. My initial plan was to get 2 new 8 foot sections of fence for the gate area, and use the older weathered boards from there to patch the rest of the fence. It turned out I was able to move the gate using the existing fence and one new post, and still had more than enough to repair the rest of the fence. Rather than alter the fence line to get around the tree shown, I cut out a section for the tree, and restored the fence to its original line. I replaced the top support board on several sections, left most of the rest of the support boards alone. On one section the original installers had spliced in another 2 feet of fence rather than dig another post. This section was sagging badly. When I replace the fence entirely I'll dig another post, but for now I took the pickets off and replaced all 3 2x3 spliced supports with 10 foot 2x4.

The fence looks much, much better than it did, and it is no longer threatening to fall down. I'm out of shape.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Odd rhythmbox behavior

For years I've stuck with XMMS to play music, even when it was removed from Ubuntu's repositories due to outdated libraries. It was familiar--basically Winamp for Linux, seemed to use lower resources than its direct replacement (Audacious) and had the ability to directly delete files from within XMMS. It has some bugs--the biggest being that it displays a version of id3 tags that it can not edit, even when the version it CAN edit is present.

I started to use Rhythmbox when it gained support for my iPod tOuch--first to merely transfer files over, but then I started a project to properly tag, sort and de-duplicate my music files. Rhythmbox has search and bulk tag editing capabilities that made this much easier, and once I used it more, the new features outweighed the familiarity of XMMS.

Unfortunately Rhythmbox on my computer quit recognizing my iPod, although Wife's computer and my netbook still worked. I also discovered that a significant number of songs would play silently for the regular length of the song. These songs played fine in other programs. Under some circumstances, trying to play these songs in Rhythmbox would start another song going that could not be stopped without quitting Rhythmbox--trying to switch to a different song would leave both of them playing at once. I didn't try these songs on other computers.

Most mp3's are recorded at 44khz, the same as CD. When I looked for common features of the silent songs, they were all recorded at some other sample rate, mostly 22khz. Re-recording one of these at 44khz allowed it to be played, but that is fairly time consuming with my fairly old computer.

It turns out that both the playback and iPod problems have a common cause. Rhythmbox has a preference "use crossfading backend"--this should smoothly blend the next song, but winds up fading the beginning of songs too much. When I turned off crossfading, Rhythmbox was able to play the songs it couldn't, and it found my iPod again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Muppets....stronger than they look?

Guy hired to play Elmo is on break, goes to look at guitars at a nearby store. Another guy 'feels threatened', attacks Elmo...and loses.


h/t to Popehat

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Just what I always needed


Some people have more money than sense, but apparently not as many as Meijer's expected.

A small bundle of sticks, on clearance for 6.99.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Under Pressure


I decided to get a press for holster making. I ordered a sheet of inch thick gum rubber and cut it into two 12 inch squares. I tried a homemade press using some 2x12 and threaded rod, but it was too hard to get enough pressure. Harbor Freight had a sale on their 12 ton shop press--bigger than I need, but I heard some complaints about their smaller bench model.

The press is fairly typical Harbor Freight quality--The spreader bar at the bottom was misaligned and broke a weld while squaring the press up, but it is still usable. The upper I beam is a bit of a loose fit to the side beams, I'm probably going to add some washers inbetween to tighten it better. It works well enough for my purposes.

The basic setup I'm using is a chunk of 2x12, one of the rubber pads, the holster with a blue gun inside, the other rubber pad, then another 2x12. The press came with 2 inch thick metal blocks, I use one of those on top of the wood to spread the force of the press out, otherwise I am pretty sure the wood would split.

I'm not sure how hard I have to press to get the level of detail I am looking for--I think I went more than necessary this time.


I want enough pressure to get decent detail, but I don't know if I need so much that I can read the lettering engraved on the dummy gun.

This saves quite a bit of time in molding the holster by hand, and I think the end result looks better.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

iphone shot timer and airsoft

Previously I had experimented with using my PACT shot timer with my old spring-air airsoft. The timer had to be set at the target, to record the impact rather than the shot, which meant walking back and forth for each shot.

That airsoft died, so I splurged and got a CO2 airsoft. I have not tried the PACT timer with the new Airsoft, but I have played around with Surefire's shot timer app for the iPod tOuch. With a small tweak to the sensitivity, it works fine. I even slapped a holster together out of some crap leather (and discovered that the Tippmann Boss will not sew wet leather...) and practiced drawing from under a cover shirt, and experimented with aimed vs point shooting. My target was a piece of printer paper and a homemade pellet trap, and I was able to hit it reliably out to about 10 feet or so without using sights. The speed increase was only about 2/10 of a second.

I do not believe that the airsoft is representative of followup shots, but as a cheap way to practice the draw and first shot on target, I think it is worthwhile.

If you are a shooter with an iPhone or a tOuch, with a mic (or the earbuds with remote and mic) get the shot timer app--it is free, and works well with real guns, too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Convervative vs libertarian

There is a quiz over at the Center for American Progress, "How Progressive Are You?", with fairly typical questions designed to measure where you fall on the left-right political spectrum.  Like most of these quizzes, it totally ignores the libertarian-statist axis.

I scored a 155, counting as conservative--but I am fairly sure that in quite a few cases either my logic as to why, or my idea of a proper solution was different from either their preferred solution, or from what they perceived as conservative. .

Examples:
Government regulations are necessary to keep businesses in check and protect workers and consumers
Yes, I am not an anarchist.  However, we currently have vastly more of these regulations than necessary or helpful.
America's security is best promoted by working through diplomacy, alliances, and international institutions.
Usually.  But it helps to have a big stick, and to negotiate from a position of strength.
Americans should adopt a more sustainable lifestyle by conserving energy and consuming fewer goods
Sure--but we should not be forced or taxed into this.
Religious faith should focus more on promoting tolerance, social justice and peace in society, and less on opposing abortion or gay rights
"Religion should" is not a relevant political question. I am not likely to go to an anti-gay church, but as long as they just talk, and don't go physically hunting down gays, so what?
Human life begins at conception and shold be protected from that point forward
Sort of--Human life should not be begun unless it will be protected from that point forward.
America's economic future requires a transformation away from oil, gas and coal to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. 
More than likely eventually this will be yes.  Again, the question is whether we get their through natural market forces, or if we get there through coercion.
Changes in the traditional american family have harmed our society
In some ways yes, others no.  But this is mostly irrelevant to government.
Social Security should be reformed to allow workers to invest some of their contributions in individual accounts. 
This assumes that Social Security should be kept.  Individual accounts is better than a pool of money for the government to "borrow', but it is still forced savings.
Rich people like to believe they have made it on their own, but society has contributed greatly to their wealth
This appears to be justification for taking money from the rich, rather than an actual political question.
Government policies too often serve the interests of corporations and the wealthy
Yes--Not because the policies are designed to do that, but because corporations and the wealthy can hie people to navigate the complexity and maximize benefit.
African Americans and other minority groups still lack the same opportunities as whites in our country
Yes to an extent--but most of this isn't due to current racism, but rather to lingering effects of past generations of racism, and the awful results of a welfare system that actively discourages self-sufficiency.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Backin' up, backin' up

A hilarious remix of a news story of a robbery:



The original news report:



And an article covering the original story and the video

(HT to Mo Rage)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Who cares

Gun enthusiasts, Tea Party supporters, conservatives and to some extent libertarians are often stereotyped as anti-gay bigots.

When I blogged about Southern Style Granite, I realized that the only place I had seen references were from other gun bloggers. I assumed it was sample bias, since I have a high proportion of gun bloggers in my RSS feed. After posting a comment on Daisy's Dead Air, I decided to look into who was spreading the word about Southern Style Granite. Ambulance Driver and Dan Savage both mentioned this incident on August 30, so there has been plenty of time for both sets of readers. I logged out of Google to avoid getting customized results, and checked the first 50 results.  Well over half of these results mentioned thir bias, and 13 mentions were distinct blogs.  (some blogs showed up several times in the Google results, I only counted each one time. 

Of the 13, 6 were people I recognized as gun bloggers, 4 gay or gay oriented (and one gay gun blogger counted in both), and 4 that were not easily classified in either of the first 2 groups.

So bigoted, right wing gun nuts are doing more than gay-oriented bloggers to spread the word about a particular incident of anti-gay bigotry.   (EMS bloggers may be tied with gun bloggers, I didn't count them separately)  

Too many people confuse a lack of support for legislation for a lack of support for the cause itself.  Jennifer said it well--
I don’t believe in forcing tolerance by force of law, but I do fully support any individuals desire to move their dollars elsewhere. It’s the beauty of the free market. I choose not to do business with bigots like Southern Style Granite.
Southern Style Granite should be allowed to choose who to serve--but they should not be shielded from the results.  I hope this spreads, and there is a significant drop in Southern Style's business as a direct result--and I hope they realize the cause.   

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bigots at Southern Style Granite

Ambulance Driver points us at a story of bigots at southern style granite.

Basic story: 2 men go to look at granite counter tops. One of the co-owners asks them if they are a gay couple, and when the answer is yes, rudely tells the couple that their kind is not welcome here.

As someone else pointed out--Is overt anti-gay bigotry really wise in a company that relies on interior decorators?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Straws and camels

“How do you defeat a karate master? Offer him as many small coins as you can shove into a hat before he says “stop”. Of course, to get the money, he must catch the hat – with his head, as you drop it from the fifth floor.”
...To a libertarian, every new statist restriction is similar to a coin from this joke"


RTWT.    This is a concept I've been trying to articulate, he does a better job than I've been able to manage.     Each law passed adds a coin.  The "coin" may have varying monetary values--this is the beneficial part.  But each law/coin also has a weight--the restrictions it puts on us, the extra power given to government officials--in some cases making it impractically difficult to follow the whole law.  No matter how small or trivial each individual weight is, enough will crush us.  


Some laws are well worth the weight--the value of laws against murder, assault, theft and fraud are far greater than the restrictions they add.   


Some are not--what good purpose is served by licensing criteria for hairdressers beyond basic sanitation?  (or even licensing them at all?)  Does it make sense that thrift stores and garage sales can be held responsible for product recalls? 


(H/T to Oleg Volk)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Zoo picture dump

Took my grandson to the Columbus zoo today--First time we have taken him that far, he did well--but he was exhausted by the time we left, asleep before we were out of the parking lot.  Click on pictures to make them huge

They have a bucket of combs and brushes at the petting area.


He wanted to get in and swim with the fish...


It is really hard to get a picture of a toddler at the zoo that shows faces and that he's at the zoo.  Sometimes you just settle for faces.



Big snake














Giant aquarium.  I think it is fantastic, he wasn't impressed.





Fox Bats








He did like the tank with manatees and rays.














They had a fantastic playset, although I am not sure why it belongs at the zoo.  Kind of like the McDonalds ones, except much bigger and better.

The only downside was if your kid didn't want to come out, it was hard to get to him...

These were the "stairs" to the upper levels--a series of  steps like this, except with the hole in a different corner for each step--maximum fall level was only about 2 feet onto a stretched cloth floor.




Level 2 of 3 levels.















I am probably going to use this picture for a Gimp tutorial.











Monday, August 23, 2010

Catchy Song

There is a lot about this song I usually would not like--particularly the NSFW language. In this case it works, and the song is catchy and funny.  I've listened a dozen or more times in the last 2 days

(Mom, you probably don't want to listen)



(HT to Roberta X)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Italian Mantis

I moved one of my basil plants to the deck. It got a visitor:


I didn't know preying mantises liked Italian...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Technology shuffle

I wanted to upgrade my iPod Touch--despite it being barely over a year old, and being updated once in that time, the majority of apps I have tried to install in the last few months need a more recent version of the iPod OS.

It needs a Windows (or a Mac) computer to update, with enough space to make a copy of everything on my iPod--in this case, about 12 gigabytes. I have one computer left that can still boot into Windows, and it does have far more than 12 gigabytes free.

Except the iPod gives no choice in where that free space must be, it insists that it must be in the user's "my documents" folder, which is by default on the C drive. Windows makes it slightly difficult to install with 'my documents' anywhere but C, and even more difficult to move them after the install.

When I install Windows, I have been in the habit of partitioning the drive, with a small but adequate partition for the C drive, and the remainder as an E: drive for data. This means that if I have to reinstall, I can wipe Windows without wiping out the data.

There may be a workaround within iTunes, but I couldn't find it in the time I was willing to devote. There is a section within iTunes to enter a path, logic would lead one to believe changing that path would change where the backup would go--but when I changed it to a path with more than enough free space, it still tried to use the "my documents" on C: to put the backup.

I finally managed a workaround by adding a spare old hard drive I had available, shuffling data then using Linux to expand the partition holding the C drive--a project I had been meaning to do anyway. Once I did that, I was able to sync my iPod and run the update. I have no idea how long the update took, but at least several hours with the CPU running at 100% for most of the time, and virtually no indication of progress--usually a symptom of an application that has hung. I left it overnight and when I awoke, the upgrade had completed.

I am still amazed at how amazingly well Apple does some things, and how amazingly badly they do others. My brother is an advanced Mac user. He said that iTunes for Windows left such a bad impression, it kept him from giving Mac a serious chance for about a year.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Jolicloud 1.0

My wife and I both have EeePC 900 netbooks in addition to our main computers.  Being a geek, I was not happy with the version of Linux that came with the netbooks--it worked OK, but it appeared that little effort was spent on keeping things up to date.  The versions of applications used were old, particularly Firefox.

I went through a handful of netbook-specific versions of Linux.  The Eee 900 series has slightly odd audio hardware, and needs a modified kernel to get sound working just right.   I was also hoping to find a version that could do Skype video cleanly.  I finally settled on on Jolicloud beta. Jolicloud was meant to be a "cloud" based system--rather than relying on local data storage, it is meant to be on the web for almost all use.  Many of the official apps are slightly modified versions of web applications, with most of the browser controls removed.  Not perfect--the default method of installing applications was limited to apps that fit their philosophy, but since Jolicloud is a tweaked version of Ubuntu Netbook Remix, entering "sudo apt-get install synaptic" in a terminal gave me the full graphical installer from Ubuntu.

I was mostly satisfied--I had come to the conclusion that the hardware just wasn't strong enough to do Skype with video, but other than everything worked fairly well.

Unfortunately, the "upgrade" from the 0.9 beta to 1.0 was not an improvement.   Power management no longer worked, the interface was drastically different, many applications that I had installed had been removed, and the Chromium browser would not remember changed settings.  It also refuses to log in without a network connection.  I did a bit of checking on the internet, and found that this was by design.

So rather than fight with Jolicloud, I went back to Easy Peasy. I've got the Eee with a separate drive for my home folder--this means that while I have to reinstall some apps, I do not have to configure them.  For example, installing Pidgin then launching it automatically logs me on to the IM networks I had set up before.

In my view, there should not be major changes when going to a "stable" version--too much of a chance of introducing bugs that won't be caught.  It is also a bit of bait-and-switch for those who went through the beta versions and expected something similar in the stable.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Big government and small business

Phillip Greenspun is an electrical engineer and Internet guru.  He has had the same email address since 1976, and founded photo.net in 1993.   He now runs a flight school in the Boston area, in addition to teaching at MIT.  He talks about lobbying and big government:
 Boston Red Sox, along with other professional sports teams, lobbied Congress and the FAA for years trying to get them to forbid banner-towing airplanes flying over stadiums during games. They did this in hopes of preventing anyone from advertising to fans other than themselves, thus enhancing their billions of dollars in revenue. The FAA refused to hand over airspace to private owners, but Congress forced them to do so after 9/11, arguing that a 3 nautical mile ban around stadiums was necessary for security. Because this taking of public property was done under the guise of security, it was sufficient to ban only banner towers; all aircraft were banned except for those owned or operated on behalf of the sports team. The security value of the ban is negligible. A terrorist in a jet would fly through the 3 n.m. ring in about 1 minute. There would be no time to evacuate the stadium. It isn’t even clear that there are procedures in place for FAA controllers to inform stadium owners that someone has violated this security zone and therefore there would be notification to fans that it was time to duck.
(click the quote to read the whole article) Three miles is nowhere near enough for any real security--even a very slow airplane could cover that in a minute and a half--what could be done in a minute and a half?   However, three miles covers most of Boston, meaning his flight school has to know the schedule and not run their helicopter tours when there are games--even if they will not overfly the stadium, even if the game is not on the printed schedule.   He also talks about the costs of his flight school vs. the costs of a degree-granting college.  His school is about half the price--but because of federal subsidies, it is cheaper to a student to get the same training at a college or university--because you and I pay the difference.

But "How can you be against security" and "how can you be against education"?  Politicians need to be able to justify their votes, but they also need to be WILLING to justify their votes, and vote against ever-expanding government, even when it gives an opponent a sound bite to use against them.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

OFCC Picnic

Went to the Ohioans for Concealed Carry picnic today.  It was the first time I've open carried other than at a gun range. Felt strange--my subconscious kept trying to tell me there was something wrong with my holster, I needed to fix it--kind of like having my fly open.   No soccer moms this year.

I got a couple of ideas for different holsters, and won a box of .380.  Speakers were OK, food was fair. Nikki Goeser was great for the first 20 minutes--I'm not going to tell her to shut up though, all things considered, she is doing well for herself and for gun rights.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vanity

An address is supposed to make it so people can find you.  When you get your driveway named as a street you need to realize that "One Acme Widgets Place" might make it easy to send mail to Acme Widgets, but is going to be minimally useful to someone who needs to visit in person.   This also applies to extremely short public streets--but these are at least slightly more likely to show up on a map or GPS. 


A few days ago, Wife had an appointment in Dayton at one of these addresses.  Google had the address, my GPS did not.  Unfortunately a printout of Google Directions is not able to re-route around construction, and I didn't think to figure out a nearby address to put in the GPS before she left.   


If you must have a vanity address, at least leave a clue--"1 Acme Widgets Place, off the 6000 block of Coyote Ave"


I am willing to make an exception for 4 of the schools in my hometown, but only because the alternative for them would be an address on Loony Road

Friday, July 23, 2010

Halt in producton

I have had a couple of people in real life ask why I haven't done a holster post in a while.   I live quite a distance from the nearest Tandy shop, and generally don't go just for leather.  I did not select my own leather last time, a significant mistake.  The leather I got was on sale, and a good price--but awful in quality.  The rough side was almost fuzzy with a ton of loose fibers, and the thickness was extremely variable--a lot of it is either far too thin or far too thick for the holsters I am making.

I've got a decent chunk of leather now, so I should start back up soon.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rick K and the Allnighters

Rick K and the Allnighters have recently become the subject of this viral video, based on the antics of their "Drummer at the Wrong Gig", Steve Moore:



Apparently the video was taken at an amusement park in Pennsylvania a few years ago, and basically ignored until sometime in June, when it went from a few thousand views to millions.

Even better is their version of Wipeout:





We went to Cool Creek Park in Carmel Indiana to see The Allnighters Friday night. That concert was just as over the top, and just as fun. They did two sets, changing outfits between--although the change was basically from blue sequined jackets to white sequined jackets...Lots of audience participation.  Click to embiggen.

I took video.  Warning--the sound is loud, and I didn't have a tripod. 





There were a couple of vendor booths, and the park department was giving out these doggie poop bag holders:









In a couple of places, I've seen comments expressing sympathy for Steve Moore for having to play in a cover band. How many people would like to play music for a living? How many get to quit their day job without a girlfriend to support them? I'm guessing that a band like this with a heavy tour schedule is more successful than 98% of "professional" musicians.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Celebrating the 2nd of July

We went with my parents to see Red White and Boom in Columbus--their fireworks display on the 2nd.  (If you want good fireworks, see the displays in July that are not on the fourth)  Unfortunately, I forgot both my tripod and a memory card for my camera, so I was only able to take 6 pictures...
These were the most impressive and most sky-filing fireworks I have seen.  We were sitting downwind, and getting sprinkled with the cardboard flakes from the fireworks.   The picture I am most disapointed in missing was the condo high rise behind us--we were at a perfect position to get the reflection of fireworks in the glass of the condo. 

Friday, July 02, 2010

Oops

There was recently a thread on the Ohioans for Concealed Carry discussion board had a post asking "what if your gun falls out in public".  

A surprising number of people admitted to having their guns fall out in public.

The overwhelming majority were carrying in an Uncle Mike's or DeSantis cloth holster.  I had a gun fall when getting out of the car to get gas--in one of those nylon DeSantis holsters.  Last time I ever used a nylon belt holster.   In my case the entire holster came unhooked from my belt and skittered under my car.

There are two problems with these particular holsters.  The first is the relatively narrow clips used--Most narrow clips can easily twist off the belt when used alone, even if straight tugging feels secure.  The same clips used in pairs can be very secure, since they can't twist without one of the clips coming undone first.

The second is retention.  A soft nylon holster can't hold a gun securely without some sort of assistance, generally a thumb break strap.  (A thumb break is a strap with a snap  and a stiff section that can be pushed with the thumb while drawing to break the snap open)

A cloth holster with a thumb break and belt slots instead of clips is OK--probably not as comfortable or concealable as a good leather holster, but not likely to dump the gun.   Nylon is also fine as a pocket holster, where lack of retention is a feature rather than a bug.

Although there is a bit of snobbery in recommending against nylon holsters, there are also a lot of practical reasons--Although it is possible to make a bad holster out of leather (I know, I've done it myself...)  it is much more difficult to make a good holster out of nylon.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Bad holster design

I have been using basic pancake holsters for my J frame to try new techniques--these are relatively simple, take less leather than for a bigger gun, and are fairly quick to make.   In this case, I was molding by clamping the holster and gun between dense foam rubber.  That part of the experiment worked reasonably well.  (as a side note--the foam rubber I was using for the backside had a pattern that transfered as almost a basketweave pattern.  Unfortunately the leather still needs to be touched up after molding, so I can't use this process as a decorative element)

I am not at all happy about the cut of the top of the pocket.  I did not leave enough leather along the top, so I wound up having to cut a ragged-looking line, and still did not get enough trigger coverage.  The trigger should be completely covered.  The small gap is probably not going to be a problem on a revolver, but probably isn't quite good enough for long-term use.  I am not sure exactly what happened, but I think I changed the cant between cutting the pattern and sewing the holster.  

I was also trying to make the holster ride higher to be less likely to peak out from under my shirt.   I managed that, but in doing there isn't enough below the belt to keep the upper part tight against the body.  The J frame is small enough that it isn't a major problem, but it is not as comfortable as it should be. I had meant to angle the belt slots so the tops are closer together than the bottoms--this tends to pull the top inward.  However, like the top of the pocket, I did not leave myself enough leather.
With some of these "not quite what I meant" I've been able to sell them cheaply while pointing out their problems, and at least recover the materials cost.  The uncovered trigger means I can't let anyone else use this holster.  Once I make what I really intended, I will destroy this one.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Picking trash

We have been decluttering, and throwing away lots of stuff that in theory is marginally useful, but had not been touched in many years. Most of this stuff isn't making it to trash day-people go though it and take useful stuff, or the metal for recycling. I'm fine with that, I would much rather see it go to some use than to have it go to landfill and so far they aren't leaving a mess behind.

I question the economics of some of the pickers though--Do you really make more in scrap than the gas you spend collecting it? Especially when you leave your van running as you dig.

The strangest is that apparently some people are going around cutting the cords off any electrical appliances, and only taking the cord. I don't see how that can possibly be worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cooking Steak

I've learned to cook cheap steak and have it turn out tasty. The secret is letting the steak warm up to room temperature with a heavy, heavy crust of coarse Kosher salt--basically as much salt as will stick.  When it is time to cook the steak, thoroughly rinse the salt off under running water, and dry the steak with a towel. Don't overcook, use a meat thermometer.  The steak winds up more tender than otherwise, and lightly salted throughout.

Don't even try this with table salt-I did once a few years ago, and the result was extremely salty and almost inedible.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How much?

Dyson makes interesting products.  I haven't used their vacuums, but from both testimony of people who have, and the number of people copying them, they appear to be excellent.

I have used the Dyson Air Blade hand dryer, and it is by far the best hand dryer I've ever used.  In a couple seconds, it gets your hands as dry as a towel

A few days ago, I saw the Dyson Air Multiplier at Meijers--Dyson's take on a fan.  Looks really neat, seems to work quietly and well...

...but it is $300.   For a portable fan.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Conspiracy Theories.

There is a program that allows pilots who have undergone rigorous training to carry a handgun in the cockpit of commercial airliners.    The theoretical concept is good.  Execution however is amazingly bad. Basically, every time the pilot has to leave the cockpit, he has to lock the gun up.  That is bad enough, and appears designed to make it so inconvenient that many pilots are dissuaded.   However, that's not the worst part--the worst part is that the pilots are required to lock their gun up by inserting a padlock through a hole in the holster, and through the triggerguard.

Put a hard metal object through the trigger guard of a loaded gun--and you can't even see the trigger when you do this.   You don't have to be an elite trainer to cringe at this.

In theory, the holster should guide the lock behind the trigger.  In practice, if the gun is not perfectly seated in the holster, the lock winds up just in front of the trigger, so that any pressure on the gun makes it go off.  This has happened more than once--including at least once in the cockpit of an airplane-- yet no corrective action has been taken.

The Dutch have skimmers that can capture 5,000 tons of  spilled oil per day per ship.  They offered 4 of these  to us 3 days after the spill.

 In order to be useful, the skimmers have to also suck up water .  The water separates from almost all the oil--but a few drops are unable to be separated and remain in the water.  We apparently have regulations that forbid discharging water with more than 15ppm oil--even if the oil was in the water when you sucked it in.   Apparently this idiotic regulation is why we don't have US oil skimmers.   The Dutch skimmers are finally in action and working well, over a month late.

The state of Louisiana managed to get barges running to suck and skim oil--but the coast guard shut them down because....they were not certain that the barges had the appropriate life jackets and fire extinguishers...and instead of going aboard and counting, they wanted to contact the manufacturers of the barges.  

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I've got pretty low expectations on the intelligence of government--but these stories strain the limits of mere stupidity.

(h/t to Linoge for the oil spill stories)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pissed

Yesterday we ate out on the deck.  The trees have filled in, so there is plenty of shade--we didn't bother putting the umbrella up, forgetting that the primary purpose isn't to keep the sun off us.

Suddenly, I felt water...seemed odd, it was not cloudy enough for rain, and it would be surprising for that much rain to get through the trees that fast.  Oralia asked "Is it raining?"

No.  

Damn squirrels.   

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fake Rolex

My brother in law asked me to look at a Rolex he got from somewhere, because it would not run long.  He didn't have it with him.  I explained that if it was real, I'm not good enough to be worthwhile, and if it was fake, it probably isn't worth fixing.

Rolex fakes range from near-exact copies that are pretty much indistinguishable from the real ones without taking the back off, to slapping Rolex on whatever is handy.  

This watch is far closer to the latter.  In its favor, it is a mechanical movement, a screw-down crown and a solid-link bracelet.  However, there are lots of  clues to it being a fake.   It is a modern sport-style watch but it has a glass display back--only some of the Cellini handwind dress watches with square cases have a display back.   The movement is a skeleton, again not available in a sports Rolex.   Tacky foil decorations taped on both sides--basically the watch equivalent of spinner hubcaps.   Lettering is not nearly as crisp and even as a real Rolex.  A huge clue is that the dial says "Co-axial escapement"--a trademark of Omega, one of Rolex biggest competitors.  The case also has 18k markings, but is stainless steel.  The back is marked "waterproof" a term that has not been used since the early 70's.

LeDoux Restaraunt

LeDoux is a Cajun restaraunt north of Troy, Ohio in an odd location--they have a corner of what I think is a medical office building near the hospital. Decor is OK but looks like it was ordered from a Restaurant Decor catalog.

I've eaten at LeDoux twice. The first time was very good--I don't remember what my dish was called but it was some sort of pork with a spicy sauce over rice, and a cup of gumbo as a side.  That meal was good enough that when my Dad offered to take me out for lunch, I opted for Ledoux again instead of my favorite, La Fiesta.

Unfortunately this time wasn't good.  I can't entirely blame them for the Swamp Trash appetizer--it had Alligator and Crawfish, and since I've never had either one it may be that I just don't like them.  However I had a main dish of Jambalaya with chicken and sausage. The sausage was OK, but all of the chicken had an off flavor that reminded me of chicken skin accidentally left in homemade soup. All my dishes had a flavor of old fry grease that needs to be changed, including the dirty rice side dish.   I had half a Boudin Ball from someone else's appetizer--Much better than my dishes, but didn't have enough to judge thoroughly.

LeDoux may be authentic, I wouldn't know. I prefer Zatarains mixes from the grocery.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A sign from above

This is what our family called "Scary Jesus" but is more commonly known as "Touchdown Jesus":
A huge statue of the upper half of Jesus, rising out of the water, located on I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati.

Monday night, lightening struck Touchdown Jesus, set him on fire and burned him to the ground, leaving only the metal framework.


The church is already planning to rebuild.  How can you believe in Jesus, but not believe that the ligtening wasn't a sign that this isn't a good idea?

Monday, June 14, 2010

One thing leads to another

It's finally time to put the air conditioners in. Somehow being married caused this to lead to the cleaning of uninvolved windows. We have modern tip-in windows, but there's a shelf to hold my watch display that makes it hard to get to one of them--it was easier to completely remove the window sashes.

Since the window was out, it seemed like a good time to get rid of the branches on the porch roof below the window....and while I was there, clean the stain on the siding in that corner. While doing that I noticed the sticks in the gutter above. I could reach them by standing on the windowsill, but I wasn't balanced well enough to remove them without falling off the roof.   I got the folding ladder/scaffolding and set it up half inside, half on the roof.

Turns out that the sticks in the gutter above were growing and had roots, and the gutter was quite full of leaves and muck. After emptying the gutter, I found I had splashed the siding with muck, and there was leaf muck all over the porch roof.  Off to retrieve the hose, and some rope.  Tossed the rope down and used it to raise the hose up--only to find that the nozzle on that hose was leaky,and sprayed more water out the sides than the front.

Finally got the muck rinsed off the siding and the roof.  Went to put the window back in, and discovered that while it will come out easily with the shelf in place, getting it back in was harder.  I wound up having to take the shelf down anyhow.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tippmann Boss first impressions

I've done some investigation on leather sewing machines, and everyone I have talked to recommended the Tippmann Boss as the best entry-level leather sewing machine.  They are currently on sale from the factory at just about what used ones are selling for on Ebay.

Based on the same recommendations, we drove to Fort Wayne rather than having one shipped, so I could see how these work.  I talked to one of the techs who assembles and repairs Boss stitchers, and he showed me how to set up and use the machine.  He recommended a thinner foot and a 10 pack of needles, both of which were thrown in for free.  Being out of state, I also avoided sales tax.  He also said that he grinds the front of the thin foot off for better visibility, and he can get within 1/8 inch of an edge or raised section.

I threw together a horse out of scrap lumber from a 20 year old waterbed frame and mounted the stitcher.  I plan to modify this horse a bit to make it fold, but for 45 minutes work out of scraps, it works fine.

The Boss is a completely manual machine.  Stitching is done by pulling an arm similar to a slot machine, once per stitch. The arm has a handle like a bike brake lever to lift the presser foot.  Stitch width, foot pressure and thread tension are all adjustable.  I practiced on some scrap leather, and quickly figured out how to get decent results.   I then stitched a holster I'd started to hand sew and abandoned.  Even though I had to carefully monitor the stitch placement because this holster had some of its holes pre-drilled, it was still incredibly fast compared to hand stitching.   Back stitching can be done by either turning the material or by lifting the presser foot and manually aligning the needle for each stitch. You want to backstitch on both ends of your line--the beginning is best done by reversing, so the holes are properly spaced.

I'm nearly certain that I'm going to be very happy with this stitcher.

Monday, May 31, 2010

iPod tOuch complaints

The iPod Touch is a fantastic device--I love mine, and don't want to be without it  However, some of its limitations are maddening--in large part because they are arbitrary and artificial, rather than being genuine limits of the system.  Many people "jailbreak" their iPhones, removing these artificial restrictions.

Some of these limits make sense on the iPhone, like limiting certain apps to wifi, or limiting the size of 3g downloads.  Some of the limits on the Touch are plausibly "if you can't do it well, don't do it". Apps are restricted to Apple-Approved, and only Apple apps are allowed to run while other things are going on.   This means I can listen to music via the built-in music app, while downloading from an official Apple source, while using yet another app--but I can't listen to Pandora while doing anything else.  Apple says this is to maintain battery life.  

One of the most annoying needless limitations are how the iTouch handles podcasts.  Podcasts are a sort of audio blog, using the same RSS protocols that most blogs do so new episodes can show up automatically.  Podcasts are yet another feature that needlessly requires a computer to do right.   While the Touch can download a podcast without a computer if it is available on iTunes, it cannot automate the download.--to a large extent defeating the purpose of the podcast. The easiest way to get new podcasts is to go to the podcast section of the music app, note the most recent podcast, then click the "get more episodes" link which will take you to the iTunes store, and show you the most recent podcasts.  While in the store, there's no indication which podcasts you've already downloaded, so you need to remember where you left off.  If you want to download the recent episodes of a different podcast, go back to the music app and repeat.  It is possible to download directly from the store by searching, but that is cumbersome enough that the above procedure is significantly easier.   If you want to keep a list of podcasts, you must keep at least one podcast from each, otherwise that entry disappears.

All of this seems deliberately non-friendly.  Since Apple is Interface above all else except profit, this is almost certainly deliberate, to ensure you use iTunes.

I found the ipod app  "RSS player" to do podcasts.  In theory it should do everything I need--but it is buggy to the point of uselessness.  I shouldn't need it in the first place, but it should at least do its job.   It also makes me wonder what the point of the Apple Store's approval process is. 

Another annoyance is that I cannot delete music directly from the touch, I need a computer.  I also can't save music, except via iTunes., although I can play music from a web page.

I can't sync via wifi, only via USB.  Third party apps are the opposite--they can only transfer via wifi, and NOT via USB.

...and if iTunes for Windows understood the concept of multiple users, much of this would be less of an issue.  We only have one Windows computer in the house, it has iTunes--but even though I have a different user account than my wife, iTunes brings up HER stuff instead of mine, regardless of which account.  There is a way of launching iTunes that lets you select which account, but it isn't intuitive.
--If I remember right, hold Shift, then it lets you pick a profile.

It astounds me that they do some stuff so well, and other stuff that is just as critical to the user experience so poorly.