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. 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 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  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.