Thursday, September 19, 2019

why does anyone need an AR-15

Recently I bought my first "real" rifle, a Ruger AR-556.   This is Ruger's version of the Colt AR15, sharing ancestry with the military M16.  (M4 is the current standard rifle, it is mechanically an M16, but with a shorter barrel and telescoping stock)   AR15 is a Colt trademark, AR is used to refer to all rifles of this type.

Isn't that too powerful for civilians?  No, the  .223 (5.56mm) is at the low end of rifle power.  Before WWII, almost all armies used bolt action rifles with a much more powerful cartridge, generally near the limit of what a draftee soldier could handle one shot at a time. During Vietnam we switched from .308 to .223 caliber giving up some range and power for the ability to control full auto fire and carry two or three times more ammo.   Most other armies followed a similar path.  Hunters of medium to large game generally wanted something closer to the old full power rounds.

But it will go through a bulletproof vest!  Bulletproof vests are a compromise, designed to protect against handguns without excess bulk.   Rifles (other than .22 rimfire) are far more powerful than handguns and will penetrate most vests.  A vest to withstand rifle fire would be much bulkier for little real world benefit, since rifles are rarely used against police.

Isn't the AR a military style rifle?  Depends on what you mean by style.  Many if not most rifles have military ties--in some cases a military design was adopted by civilians, in others the opposite.  Most military rifles from the last 100 years are either more powerful or full auto--intermediate caliber semiautos like the AR-15 are uncommon in military use.   Before must service rifles were full auto it was common for leftover military guns to be sold as surplus, generally a really good way to get a quality rifle cheap.

Civilians shouldn't own machine guns!  What crimes are you aware of by legally owned machine guns?  You're almost certainly wrong, we go decades without violent crimes using legal machine guns anywhere in America.  It is possible to legally own a true machine gun, but only if it was registered prior to 1986, if you've had a background check, and you've paid a $200 transfer tax every time ownership changes.

Isn't the AR an assault rifle?  The M16 is, the modern AR15 is not.  Assault rifle has a pretty standard definition of a machine gun using an intermediate power rifle cartridge. 

But it is an assault weapon, and it is a rifle, what's the difference? Assault weapon is a term invented to sound like assault rifle.  For 10 years, assault weapon rifles (there was a definition for pistols as well..that included most of the pistols that police use) were defined federally as a semiautomatic rifle with a removable magazine and 2 or more of the following:
Folding or telescoping stock (so a stock adjustable to fit 2 different people would fall under this)
Pistol grip--a gun is more deadly if the angle of your wrist changes?
Bayonet mount (do we really have bayonet crime?)
Flash hider or threaded barrel to accommodate one.  A flash hider redirects the flash so less shows up to the shooter, it is still visible to others.  They are also used to make a 14" barrel legally 16 inches to duplicate the look of an M4.
Grenade launcher--this one is particularly silly.  An underbarrel grenade launcher is more restricted than an AR15 by itself (same rules as real machine guns), while a 22mm launcher is a flash hider of 22mm diameter, so a rifle grenade slides over it.  Plus each grenade falls under the same rules as a machine gun, including the $200 transfer tax.
If this is the best they could come up with, it indicates to me that there isn't a real functional difference, they are banning things that look scary--or they are banning whatever they can get away with.

Aren't they easily converted to machine guns?  AR15's are not easily converted except by replacing the sear with an auto sear...which is legally a machine gun all by itself, subject to all the laws of machine guns. The receivers of AR15's have enough differences from M16s that the "machine gun" parts of the M16 either will not fit or will not function as machine guns.  There was a time when some semiautomatic machine gun lookalike guns (mostly pistol caliber) were easily converted, this loophole closed decades ago--current law says that if it is easily converted, it is a machine gun.

What about capacity? Isn't that a problem?  
There is at least some sense to that in the particular, unusual situation of spree murders, but it isn't inherent in the AR-rather almost ANY gun with a box magazine (which is almost all semiautomatics) can take a larger magazine.   You probably won't see many extremely high capacities in larger calibers just because the magazine length and weight would be unwieldy.  Capacity works both ways though--a good guy is likely to have only the capacity he's legally allowed.

You don't need an AR for hunting, do you?  Did Rosa Parks need to sit on the front of the bus?  Although I don't hunt,  .223 ARs are used for hunting when the game is small enough, with deer being somewhere around the upper limit.   The Second Amendment isn't about hunting--it was written by literal revolutionaries.  It was meant  for a situation like a president who refuses to leave office, for police turning a blind eye when racists firebomb churches, to protect against rioting, looting or foreign invaders.

A couple of guys with AR15's can't stand up to the US Army.   A couple of guys shouldn't be able to.  A majority on the other hand should be able to withstand their own government if the government won't obey or allow an honest election.  I see this as deterrence rather than something that will ever happen--As long as we CAN revolt, we won't need to.  To be clear, I don't think we are anywhere near needing to revolt, but I don't want to move in that direction.

The second amendment only applies to guns available when it was written, and it's a collective right  Does freedom of the press only apply to literal manual, mechanical presses?  Does freedom of speech cover telephone conversations?  What would be an unconstitutional infringement of a collective right?

That's different, speech doesn't kill people.  How many kids has anti-vax idiocy killed?  And yet giving the government the ability to censor this sort of speech would be worse.  We've had bans on sex worker ads under the pretext of protecting exploited women and girls, that in fact makes sex work more dangerous.

OK, I don't know the details, but isn't it obvious we need to do something to stop these mass shootings?  How much should we base laws and loss of rights on sensationalism? We're talking about 0.24% of gun murders, according to Mother Jones magazine.   What about the Red Menace and McCarthy?  There were a few communist agents in the government and Hollywood back then, there are almost certainly a few now--does that justify purges and blacklists?  Another possibility for "do something" is to violate the first amendment instead of the second--these shootings are more likely in the days after a previous one.  If we restricted reporting on the first one, if we didn't keep reporting the name of these losers, refused to let them become famous we would have fewer of them.
...and while I would love it if news organizations would adopt that policy voluntarily, or even via threads of boycott, I'm firmly against a law demanding it.  A free press is just as important as gun rights.  I don't want the Trump administration or any other in charge of deciding what's "fake news"--especially since there is no way to limit this to what was originally intended.

So why an AR for me?  In the 70's and 80's, there were many, many different architectures of personal computers.  Eventually IBM released their version.  This used many third party parts including the operating system, making the clone industry possible.  It wasn't the best or cheapest at first, but the backing of IBM got it past the initial teething pains until it became the dominant type of computer.  The AR-15 took a somewhat similar path--Invented by Armalite, sold to Colt, years of improvements resulting in a lightweight and reliable gun. At some point the patents expired and the clone market opened up (this took a lot longer than with computers), now it is the most common centerfire rifle type, possibly the most common overall. (Centerfire effectively means anything more powerful than a .22 rimfire, including most handguns)  If you gol look at the rifle section of a typical gun shop, you'll probably find something like roughly a third .22 rimfire, a third ARs and a third everything else--and a lot of that last third are guns too powerful to be practical in an AR platform.  There is no worry about the manufacturer dropping support or going out of business.  it's the most common for many reasons, and many of those reasons apply to me.













Friday, July 12, 2019

Drug legalization

Saw the same basic argument by Aesop on two of the blogs I follow, Borepatch and Bayou Renaissance Man Turns out my fisking of https://raconteurreport.blogspot.com/2019/07/if-we-legalize-and-tax-drugs-it-will.html is too long to leave as a comment, so I'll do it as a post here.

...drug dealers and narco-cartels will line up twenty deep to pay their taxes on their newly legalized products, they being such law-abiding and tax-paying folks since forever.

Properly legalized, current dealers and cartels won't be the ones selling.  They won't be able to compete with merely sleazy but mostly legal operations, let alone if "corporate greed" gets involved.  (Note, I'm generally in favor of corporate greed).  Sure, they might control where the majority is grown and produced now, but there are lots of places you can grow the raw materials...if you don't have some government official with a gun you need to bribe or hide from.

...cartels will not smuggle drugs in illicitly, unlike they already do with legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco products, which was your most recent argument for why we should stop trying to stop drugs from getting here.

Does anyone smuggle cigarettes to Missouri?  If we tax drugs at multiples of their free market price there will be smuggling.   Don't do that unless you're trying to fail.

...drug cartels and dealers will not undercut the price of legal, taxed drugs by selling their product for less, exactly unlike they've been doing with pot in Califrutopia since 0.2 seconds after weed became legal here, because they're not capitalists, and will do nothing to maintain and expand their market share, and profits, even by continuing to break the law.

California tax rates are rarely the right answer, no matter what the question. 

...the cartels will not get fifty times wealthier, once getting their product safely into the U.S. will become virtually consequence free once it hits our shores, and thus be emboldened to try to take over this country de facto if not actually de jure, as they already have in any number of nations south of the Rio Grande.

Profit margins will be similar to other products, unless we do something stupid like California-tax them.  With legal competition, the amount of money will not support cartels, especially if they keep their risks and their legit competition doesn't.  That's true even if the legal producers have to grow in less than ideal conditions--if it needs a greenhouse to grow in Texas or Ohio, and it's legal, that isn't much of a barrier.

...drug dealers will never, ever allow minor children to get their hands on drugs, just like that never happens with alcohol and tobacco now.

...they will never expressly market their products to younger users, knowing that the actuarial tables means that as their old clientele dies off from using their products, that's the only way to continue raking in fabulous sums of money, unlike producers of legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco do right now, and since forever.

I knew who to get pot from in about 6th grade, late 70's, a few years later than that for pills. (note.  "knew who" isn't the same as "bought from")    I was driving before I could reliably get beer, which is what I actually wanted.   The dealer was risking jail to sell to anyone, selling to a kid made little to no difference.  A carryout on the other hand had plenty of risk-free customers, the tiny extra profit selling to me wasn't worth it.   There's a really good chance that legalization would make it more difficult for teens to get drugs.  Unless things have improved since the 70's, it can't be much easier.

And MOST of the point of legalization is that there won't be fabulous sums of money to corrupt everything.  Nobody sane is worried about Bacardi taking over governments.  Cartels aren't doing this to get people hooked, they are doing it to sell.  They can't afford to give drugs away until they are illegal again.

...drug users will never shoot up in public, they being such famous respecters of community standards in the public square and public sensibilities since forever.

...drug users will never discard their needles and paraphernalia in public places, they being so well-known for their long-term planning skills, their respect of other peoples' welfare, and being such all around great neighbors.

If you want to rid some places of junkies, which would work better:  1.  Make drug use illegal everywhere, even though that hasn't worked so far   2.  Make drug use legal in private, moderately criminal in public, and very criminal in a handful of places like schoolyards.

...junkies desperate for a fix will not rob, burgle, and thieve any longer, despite not being able to afford a fix, because they are such law-abiding citizens, and so well-provided with long-term planning and financial responsibility skills.

If someone is going to steal to feed their habit, I'd rather that habit be as cheap as possible so they don't have to steal as much.

...police enforcing the collection of the taxes on legal drugs will never bungle the address on warrants for violators of same, and never, ever shoot innocent citizens, which every Dope For Dope argues as a reason to end the War On Drugs now.

Do we really have problems and raids collecting liquor taxes, cigarette taxes, etc?  I've never heard of a bungled beer tax raid.   The idea that drugs will be sold by the same people with the same methods and locations is absurd--it will be the sleazy carryout that used to sell "bath salts" and "tobacco use only" glass pipes.

...ordinary citizens will not see DUIs skyrocket, once pot, meth, cocaine, heroin, and everything else join alcohol as legal drugs to imbibe prior to a quick trip to the store for more.

Or maybe we allow delivery, or Uber.  We aren't going to have a huge spike in use.  Chances are pot use will go up, alcohol down a bit and not much change with other drugs, the people who will take them already do. And we haven't even begun to talk about people in legit pain whose doctors are afraid to proscribe medically appropriate amounts of legal drugs.   God forbid a cancer patient gets a buzz.   And I've yet to see someone seriously advocating legalization of driving stoned.

...employees and employers will see far less people stoned off their ass at work while using power tools, forklifts, semi-tractors, cranes, and every other machine known to man, just like no one now ever comes to work drunk, which will make work a much safer place than now.

Employers would still be allowed to drug test.   I've known more people who say they are clean because of employee testing than fear of arrest.  On the other hand, I don't hang out with known users, my sample may be biased.

...medical insurance prices will plummet once anyone who wants to can get heroin and cocaine any time, anywhere, there being no actual medical consequences to their use, neither once nor serially.

Let insurance companies give better rates based on actual risk--those of us who don't use can get better rates than drunks or junkies.   I'll give up a bottle of pee or a chunk of hair every so often, or every ER visit to get cheaper rates.

...ER wait times will plummet because of the total absence of millions of more drug addicts after legalization, and your father or grandmother having a stroke or heart attack will never have to sit around in the waiting room hoping not to die because every bed in the hospital will not be filled up with the drunk and the stoned in small armies, 24/7/365.

There will be fewer people in ERs just trying to scam some narcotics.
There will be fewer people overdosing on Fentanyl-laced drugs (which EVERTHING I're read says accounts for an overwhelming majority of current overdoses). 
There will be fewer people overdosing because they got a stronger batch than expected.

...the cost to society of even the anemic, hamstrung, and deliberately and corruptly incompetent half-assed current War On Drugs will not pale into infinitesimal insignificance beside the new cost to society and civilization of "Legalize and Tax".

Legalize and lightly tax--tax it like beer, not like California pot or New York cigarettes.  If you tax it so poor people can't afford it...you lose most of the benefits of legalization.  Let police and prisons concentrate on crime that directly hurts or risks decent people. 

Recreational drugs are generally stupid and bad for your health.  Freedom includes the right to do things I think are stupid.  Legalization done right may be bad for junkies, but it's their choice.  Legalization done right will be good for the rest of us.   Prohibition of alcohol was a well-intentioned disaster that we eventually fixed.  The War on Drugs is pretty much the same, except it's taking much longer to fix.  Maybe "legalize everything" is too far (and maybe not) but "prohibit everything except alcohol" is too far the other direction. 




Sunday, April 28, 2019

eBay lighting setup

Ebay pictures are a special case of photography.  As a buyer, I want clarity over artistry.  As a seller, I want to give buyers what they want with pictures that are flattering but don't hide significant flaws, and I want to do that quickly.   Note, this also applies for documenting my collection.

My setup evolved, and I might do it a bit differently if I were starting from scratch or had different sources to scrounge from.  I started with a cheap light tent that my wife found at a big box store, when I was mostly photographing watches.  This could be easily replicated with some sheer white cloth and a PVC or wire frame.  It came with lights, but they were inconvenient to set up in a way that gave the light I wanted, and the official  background cloth that came with the kit was usually wrinkled enough to show in pictures.

I tried various different backgrounds--smooth cloth, fuzzy cloth, cloth draped on its own, cloth glued to plastic sheet, cloth glued to posterboard.  Wasn't happy with any of them.  My current setup is a piece of blue posterboard.  Doesn't look great in person, looks fine in photos.  The downside is that it gets dirty easily.  I'm going to experiment with coating the next one in clear spray on finish. To get the corner curve the way I wanted, I cut open a couple of steel food cans, then cut each can into 1/4 of a cylinder and glued the posterboard to the inside radius of the cans.  The cans make a small radius without creasing, giving more useful space in the tent.  I like blue, but no matter what color I chose it would be a fairly medium shade so it doesn't require compensation in metering.  (This is especially true if your subject is relatively small,

With my old DSLR,  it was hard to get low noise and enough depth of field while handholding with the lights I was using. For a while my solution to that was to borrow my wife's mid-grade point and shoot--its small sensor gave more depth of field at acceptable visual noise levels.   Eventually I covered 3 sheets of foam core board (craft section of Walmart) in LED strips from Amazon.  The sides were about 40% covered, the top as close to 100% as I could manage.  This gives ample light for even my old DSLR.  The lights are powered from a 12v power brick from a thrift store.   (Side note--a new mid-grade DSLR has less noise than a 10 year old entry level)

The rest of the setup is not as necessary, but nice additions with stuff that I had already.  The whole thing sits on a piece of 3/4 plywood bolted to an industrial super heavy duty tripod, probably a speaker stand. This lets me adjust the height while taking up minimal space.  I had an old darkroom enlarger timer in my collection, I've started using it to control the lights--push of the button and the lights go on for about 45 seconds, then the timer resets itself automatically. 





Saturday, January 26, 2019

Photo Eaze dental camera

"The PHOTO EAZE CAMERA will permit an inexperienced operator to obtain professional results of the most difficult photographic areas or cavities of the body."  From the instruction manual that came with this camera....apparently despite its cobbled together appearance, this was a commercial product from a real company made for multiple decades, and the typewritten paper labels and blobs of paint are original to the camera.  The handwritten label on the side of the base appears to be from a previous owner.   (Click pictures to enlarge)


I think this particular camera is from around 1989.   The camera body is a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000, which was introduced in 1986.  One of the accessories is wrapped in newspaper from 1989 and held with masking tape, the handwriting matches the other notes, and other images of Photo Eaze cameras show similar wrapping and handwriting on a different camera.

The lens mount has been removed and a bellows permanently attached with phillips screws.  Lens is a Russian Heilos 44-2, possibly from a rangefinder--a very inexpensive lens, but likely adequate for the purpose.  A collar with a pointer is attached to the aperture ring of the lens, this points to an odd glossy label with numbers that do not correspond to normal F stops.  The mounting screw for the collar runs into a painted over blob, this appears to be deliberately preventing setting the aperture wide open.  Since this lens does not have a typical SLR auto aperture, the viewfinder ranges from slightly dim to very dark depending on the aperture setting.   There is a flash tube on either side of the lens in grey painted cylinders, the lens assembly and front of the bellows appear to be coated in the same grey paint.  The flash lenses were not well masked when built, there are spots of paint on them.  There are wires soldered to the hot shoe on top that lead into the base.  Several places on the camera have hand-painted spots calling out controls, and there's some plastic hacked away to allow easier access to the film rewind button.

The camera, bellows and flash tubes are mounted to a roughly cast platform connected to an aluminum hobbyist project box by a pistol grip.  There's a mount for a cable release in the pistol grip.  The box has a switch, a hole with a small neon tube and a rectangular light, plus an assortment of typed paper labels. On the front is a Photo Ease MFG logo that appears to have been cut from letterhead paper, complete with a phone number starting with YU-2. (elsewhere that's YUkon-2.  The address currently houses a small copy shop in New York City.


 Power cord is to the rear, the bottom has a grey PVC bottom held by 6 sheet metal screws.  Under that cover is a tangle of wires and components wrapped in paper masking tape.  The ground wire is just jammed into a corner of the box, held by the plastic bottom.  I'm guessing not UL listed...

The camera came with a fairly flimsy fiberboard case
with some bare wood blocks attached, and an assortment of rods.  Most of the rods have a frame at the end with dots of paint near the corners to indicate the picture area, one has a platform.  According to the instructions most of the frames are placed even with the part you are trying to photograph.  This will push the camera back on the bellows  by the proper amount to focus at the appropriate distance for that attachment.  Each rod has a large and small number depending on which of the two allowed film types you are using.


The instructions have one page with professional looking (if old-fashioned) typeset, line drawings and photos showing different cameras and an additional 3 pages of instructions that appear to be typed on a manual typewriter, with xx'd out words and handwritten corrections in blue ink.  One of the photographed cameras appears to be a Russian Zenit.  Zenit-based cameras were among the cheapest and most primitive SLRs available in USA in the 60's and 70's.  The other camera in the photos appears to be a Wirgin Edixa with a waist level finder.  The Edixa series ended in 1968, and Wirgin went out of business in the early 70's.  There isn't much detail in the line drawings, but they appear to represent an Exakta or more likely the budget version Exa.  The instructions show versions for dental work, plastic surgery and dermatology, pathology,  "eye camera", a copy stand, and a gynecology camera with a similar set of frames for 2x3", 4x6", 6x9" and "Cervix (Tubular)" attachments.   I think the gynecological version explains the Edixa--In its time it was likely the least expensive SLR with a waist level finder available, so the photographer would not have to put their eye right against the camera while photographing a cervix.  On the other hand with the dim viewfinder I'm not sure if they could see anything anyhow.  (I'm also guessing that any patient who saw how this was wired and the difficulty in sterilizing would refuse...)

By this time Yashica had introduced the Dental Eye for many of the same purposes, even using the same camera body as a base.   The Dental Eye was a much more refined camera.  All the specialty parts including flash are inside an oversized lens barrel, there are no rods or frames, and focusing sets the aperture.

Information relating to the Photo Eaze camera is a bit hard to find, compounded by "eaze" being far more common as the name of a marijuana delivery service and a sexual lubricant.   I've found a few pictures with Edixa and Kalimar/Zenit bodies, and one with a Pentax K1000 body.  One source with a Kalimar bodied version from 1982 showed an invoice for $399. The only picture with a Yashica body I've found so far is the eBay auction I bought mine from.   If anyone reading this has information I've left out, please leave a comment.