Tuesday, October 30, 2007- - -
Oh, isn't that cute!
Stumbled across David Petzal's blog at Field & Stream's web site and the first thing I saw was Remington's new R-15 Predator. It's an AR-15 clone made in cooperation with Bushmaster, but its flat-top receiver, lack of flash suppressor, and full camo treatment go a long way toward relieving the 'black rifle' look. The Jim Zumbos of the world should be a little less likely to get their panties in a knot over this one. I kind of like the 22" long-barreled version although, as a reloader, I'm not a fan of autoloaders that scatter my expensive brass through the sagebrush.
Some other interesting things from Petzal: Winchester is bringing back the Model 70 and they'll be manufactured in the US. They'll also cost an arm and a leg, but if they can lick their quality control issues they'll have a fine rifle. And Remington is selling M98 Mauser-based rifles, probably in answer to the demand for a controlled-round feed action. It's another spendy unit, but I don't think you can go wrong selling a rifle based on the M98.
All of which makes me wax philosophical. We all know that fewer and fewer people are hunting and that there are fewer hunting opportunities every year. The cost of a hunt is through the roof in some places (we've got friends from Texas who come up here to hunt because they can't afford to hunt in Texas). With costs across the board going up hunting is becoming a rich man's game, and rich men like nice toys. Since the 1960s gun manufacturers have been cutting corners to hold the line on prices, sacrificing fit & finish, using more and more cast and plastic parts, and finally getting to the point where their products' function was being effected. Plastic breaks, usually at the most inconvenient time, and rough edges cause all manner of jams. It was getting so that if you wanted a gun that worked you bought it and took it down the street to the gunsmith to be worked over before you ever fired a shot. Bedding, a trigger job, and a general deburring were standard and many hobbiests like myself were getting pretty good at those minor operations.
But the guy with the cash doesn't want something that needs fixed right out of the box, nor something made of ugly plastic. So we've seen a lot of custom and semi-custom gunmakers getting into the business. Dakota, Cooper, Kimber, and on and on. At the same time we've seen the big gun companies struggle. You can't hold the line on prices and make it up in volume if there's no demand for volume.
I suspect that's why we're seeing the majors upgrading their offering in hunting rifles and increasing prices accordingly. I'm looking forward to seeing some fine new guns in the next few years.
Update: Or not. I was just down at the local gun shop and they've gotten the info and price list on the new Winchesters. It's their feeling that the new M70s are just too expensive to sell and they're not planning on carrying them. I know they had quite a few problems with the last of the New Haven M70s and this might also color their outlook. High prices and a reputation for questionable quality are going to be high hurdles to overcome.
Friday, October 26, 2007- - -
Today the Wyoming Range, Tomorrow the World!
Boneheads. Locking up vast tracts of land and all of the public's mineral resources therein (1.2 million acres is 1875 square miles) to protect the pristine views from a few wealthy residents' vacation homes and because the land has 'unique scenic values' is a bad idea, I think. By all means there are areas too special to allow industrial development, but those areas can generally be defined a bit more restrictively than here.
By their criteria for 'unique scenic values' all of Wyoming has unique scenic values, so where does this stop? Why the Wyoming Range and not the Big Horns or the Medicine Bow Range? Unfortunately, that's a hard question to answer* once we've embarked on this course, so it sets a scary precident for locking up vast swaths of the state.
*Update: On further reflection, that's not such a difficult question to answer. Get a map of the oil & gas resources of Wyoming and you'll find it corresponds perfectly to those areas that have "unique scenic values".
Tuesday, October 23, 2007- - -
A DOS attack?
Jeez, I had no idea that the Colorado Rockies were associated with Jeff Goldstein!
The latest from the DenverPost says the Rockies ticket-selling website took 8.5 million hits yesterday morning. It's not clear whether it was a denial of service attack, scalpers attempting to score large numbers of tickets, or just zealous fans. I'm betting on the later, as I probably contributed several hundred individual hits over the course of the day.
Regardless, it sounds like the Rockies online ticket sellers were completely unprepared for the onslaught, which is surprising considering that Irvine, Calif.- based Paciolan handles some 25% of all online ticket sales in the whole country. At any rate they say they have their act together now and will be prepared when ticket sales go online again at noon today.
Funny they should have chosen noon. I can't help but notice that a lot of the disappointed fans being depicted by the DenverPost are in suits and ties, taking 'a few minutes' from work to buy tickets. It would be interesting for someone to estimate how many total hours of productivity were lost yesterday and I've got to wonder if noon wasn't chosen today so that only half the workday would be disrupted this time. If the stock market takes a big hit you know who to blame!
Ah well, I'll be online at noon, once again indulging my wife's fantasies of going to a World Series game at Coors Field (You'd never guess who the real sports fan is in that picture, with her Colorado Rockies hat, Colorado Rockies shirt, Colorado Rockies purse, and, yes, Colorado Rockies socks and Colorado Rockies purple Chucks (hightops!). Yeah, you thought I was nuts.). Needless to say, she's absolutely beside herself, not the least because a trip to Denver usually involves two weeks of laying out the purple wardrobe and assembling just the right outfit for each game (couldn't wear the same Colorado Rockies earrings twice!). Arranging mail pickup and cancelling the newspapers and dealing with the groundskeepers and packing and repacking and.. Well, let's just say that this trip was planned on short notice at best and for the terminally organized that's quite an imposition.
Me? I've got a clean pair of socks all ready to go..
Monday, October 22, 2007- - -
$%#^@$#% computer geeks!
At 09:59:59 MDT I was logged onto the Rockies website with my finger poised over the "Buy Tickets Now" button while streaming highlights films and music played, birds twittered, and all was right with the internet world. At 10:00:01 on my atomic clock all I could get out of their website was 404 messages no matter how frantically I clicked "refresh", no matter how many windows I tried to open.
Now I see on the DenverPost that the Rockies online ticket sales system crashed after only a few hundred tickets were sold and that online ticket sales have been suspended. Sweet. Oddly enough, just last Thursday Rockies spokesman Jay Alves assured us that the Rockies' computer servers would be able to handle the crush of users. Of course, he probably asked the computer geek, who said "sure! no problemo!" while thinking 'after all, how many people could possibly want to buy tickets to some stupid baseball game?'
Well, the Rockies website is back online now and it's acting like it's trying to sell tickets, but all I get is an intermediate window that tells me to please hold because their server is experiencing heavy loads, but that I'll be logged on ASAP. So.. if they've actually suspended ticket sales you wouldn't know that by the way their computer is acting. My wife just tried calling their ticket office and got 'this number is no longer in service'. No doubt. I certainly wouldn't submit my employees to the kind of abuse they'd be likely to get if they answered that phone right now..
I'm assuming they'll let us know when they've made other arrangements for ticket sales, but in the mean time I'm not logging off until somebody tells the computer to stop selling tickets..
Much Later: Well, it's after 8 pm and still no word on when ticket sales will resume, while their silly computer continues to act like an autistic child: there's something there but you just can't quite make contact.
I wasn't surprised when my wife couldn't get through to the box office on the phone, but I had been a bit surprised when I read this:
Alves told fans who had gathered at Coors Field that they should go home because there would be no sales at the box office today, either.Yes, we had understood that neither the Coors Field nor the phone-in box offices would be open. So why had so many people mobbed them anyway? Well..
Police shut down Blake Street at 22nd Street and did not allowing traffic to pass by Coors Field. The department also ordered up barricades.
During the outage, the DCPA posted a notice on its web site advising ticket buyers to order their tickets by phone at 303-893-4100 or in person. Those were options Rockies fans didn't have.Yep. they've handled this so well so far that I'd not be surprised to wake up tomorrow morning to find that the computer came online sometime around 3 am and those nice, computer-literate folks in India have a lot of baseball tickets for sale.
I wish someone would pander to the "stay off my lawn" conservatives..
This delightful tidbit from Sunday night's presidential debate:
The first question went to Giuliani, asked whether he was more conservative than Thompson. "I can't comment on Fred," the former mayor said.So at the very least federalism and states rights aren't a part of his conservative creed, nor is he a 'mind your own business' sort of conservative. More of a jack-booted Mary Poppins sort of conservative: Lots of nasty medicine but no spoon full of sugar. And no music or dancing, you know where that leads..
He then added that he had brought down crime, cleaned up Times Square, cut taxes and eliminated the city's deficits. "I think that was a pretty darned good conservative record," he said.
Giuliani took a more conservative position on gay marriage than he has thus far, saying he would support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage if states begin to legalize it. [emphasis added]
Yeah, I know, he's pandering to the religious conservatives, but I've got to think that he's alienating two state's rights, limited government conservatives for every religious conservative he brings on board with this. It also gives little credit to religious conservatives, who aren't all born with a Fred Phelps Signature Stick up our butts.
Beyond this, it trivializes and bastardizes the Constitution. Remember that bit in the Declaration of Independence about how governments should be formed to secure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? The Constitution was designed to circumscribe the powers of government and, thus, secure the rights of the people. Using the supreme law of the land to circumscribe the rights of the people seems to me to be rather contrary to that spirit.
It's also contrary to the spirit of tolerance expressed and implied in the First Amendment. Freedom of religion doesn't mean much unless it compells others to tolerate your beliefs and rituals and, indeed, to tolerate your lack of belief. It can't mean 'yeah, you're free to believe/do that and we're free to throw vegetables at you'. If the Methodists (or what have you) want to marry gays that ought to be an issue for the Methodists to decide. I'm not a Methodist so it's not my business to mind, but I should tolerate their behavior so long as they stay off my lawn.
Sunday, October 21, 2007- - -
That's the $100 question
In arguing for Initiated Question 100 on the Denver municipal mail-in ballot, which directs local law enforcement to make marijuana laws their "lowest law-enforcement priority", Denver Post columnist Bob Ewegen has a few caviats:
Heavy marijuana use produces a condition I'll call "cat litter for brains." That's obviously a euphemism. But my editor, Dan Haley, has considerably higher standards for opinion pieces in The Denver Post than J. David McSwane uses for the editorials he prints on toilet walls or, occasionally, in the Rocky Mountain Collegian at CSU. So a euphemism will have to do. Ewegen gives far too much credit to th effecacy of the drug laws when he falsely assumes that those 9 percent dopers don't exist now. I suspect that those inclined to become dependent on marijuana are dependent on marijuana. The existing laws haven't kept that from happening, they've only added all the costs and problems of enforcing a prohibition.
In the SAFER Doxology, glory rests on those who blow weed until they go glassy-eyed and mutter really intelligent comments like, you know, like, uh, you know, like, you know, like, uh, you know, like, uh, the things dopers, like, uh, say.
That's better, we're told, than getting drunk and getting into bar fights.
That conclusion is reasonable. But the premise — that we must somehow do something stupid — is wrong. Smart people don't abuse marijuana, alcohol or any other drug.
Even the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project dealt a punishing, if inadvertent, blow at pot use in a recent e-mail to me: Marijuana is much less addictive than alcohol, with just nine percent of users becoming dependent as opposed to 15 percent for booze.
Yes, that proves cutting off your thumb is indeed worse than amputating your index finger. But admitting that 9 percent of marijuana users become dependent on the drug is hardly an argument for promoting its use. It's just dumb to assume that alcoholics would somehow abandon John Barleycorn to be faithful to Mary Jane. So legalization of both drugs would probably mean about a fourth of society — the existing 15 percent boozers plus the 9 percent dopers — were no longer productive citizens.
I'd also take exception to the equation of dependency with total loss of productivity. Remember, "more than two drinks more than twice a year" was Ann Landers definition of an alcoholic. That definition hasn't changed much in some circles. I'd suggest that there's a long, and yes, slippery, slope between having more than two drinks on occasion and becoming a street person. Most of those folks MADD would deem alcoholics are, in fact, productive citizens. Likewise, most of the chronics hold down a job.
Certainly, overindulgence, whether in alcohol, marijuana, or chocolate, is bad for you. Some small percentage of folks are going to become slobbering drunks, just as some few become hopelessly obese. And some folks are simply born with kitty litter for brains. Prohibition won't change any of this. But I think most of us have a sufficiently active survival instinct to avoid overindulgence to the point where it interfers with our lives, at least in whatever fashion we define "interference". If one's life goal is to be tail gunner on a garbage truck a good bit of overindulgence is probably allowable. For the emergency room surgeon, not so much. But then we need surgeons and garbage men and who's to say by what mechanism any of us should find our niche?
Saturday, October 20, 2007- - -
Ready for winter
While snapping photos of Sylvan Lake the other day, I heard a "pte!"* behind me and turned around to find this wee beasty bearing down on me from about 30 feet. He was walking down the highway trying to get around the lake and was getting a bit perturbed by all the tourists' vehicles. I beat a hasty retreat but managed to snap a good shot of him as we parted ways.
That's one fat, glossy young bull. It's easy to see why the noble savage cast his eye on old tatanka and said "Man, that's dinner for a month!
*Oddly enough, "pte" is a Dakota term for "buffalo", pronounced as a sort of wheezing cough pretty much as our friendly buffalo pronounced it, making it one of those onomatopoeic terms like "bow-wow". One thing's certain, whoever decided to call them "pte" had gotten dangerously close to them a few times.
Seems even the rugged individualists of this reddest of red, 'mind-your-own-business', 'property rights are sacrosanct' state of Wyoming aren't adverse to a little nannyism.
CHEYENNE -- Two-thirds of Wyoming voters support a ban on smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars, according to a new statewide poll.As usual, the devil is in the details. As much as the American Cancer Society would like to frame the argument as 'smoker's rights v. breather's rights' -- both fairly nebulous quantities -- there's also the issue of property rights. If you own the joint and want to run a fern bar, fine, but is there no room for the guy who wants to run a greasy dive?
The poll also found that 74 percent of registered voters believe the right of customers and employees to breathe clean air indoors trumps the rights of smokers.
The poll also found that 92 percent of voters say they would go to restaurants more frequently, or at least the same amount of time, if they were smoke free.
�It shows that the people of Wyoming would absolutely support a smoke-free Wyoming,� said Loretta Wolf, spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society in Wyoming, one of the groups that commissioned the poll.
If I recall correctly, a poll of smoking ban supporters in Laramie found that most of them wouldn't go to those smokey pits of iniquity even if smoking were banned, while the folks who frequent the biker bar aren't likely to become customers of the fern bar down the street. It's a big country, seems to me there ought to be room for fern bars and the occasional dive.
Friday, October 19, 2007- - -
It still feels like being scalped..
Just last week Denver police arrested a ticket scalper after he allegedly sold a pair of Rockies playoff series tickets to undercover police officers for triple their face value. Ticket resellers have never been allowed to sell tickets for more than face value in Denver, but now we hear that World Series tickets will be selling for up to $6000 for the best tickets. That's 24 times the $250 face value and now it's somehow magically legal. But it's not all as bad as that: I called my favorite scalper yesterday and he says he can get me a pair of tickets for only $3000 each. Whoo boy.
I guess I'll be one of the folks poised at the computer come Monday to try to get a pair of tickets at face value, even though we find that most of the tickets have already been diverted to this new batch of high-dollar scalpers. Too bad, they've always done a good job of holding the line on ticket prices, even for high-demand games with the Cubs & Yankees and such. I guess the temptation was just too much, but this is likely to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the hard-core fans.
Update: Good Grief! According to the ever-entertaining Woody Paige, a Rockpile ticket for Game 3 of the World Series is available at the website stubhub.com for $17,800. Now we were told earlier that the 30,000 odd tickets for each game that aren't available for sale all went to "... season ticket holders, players, league officials and others who get ticket allotments." Mkay? Got to wonder how many folks hold season tickets in the Rockpile, or how many players and league officials got tickets for their families in the Rockpile, or.. I suspect this is those nebulous "others who get ticket allotments" as I've a hard time believing there are 30,000 player and official "friends and family" attending. I don't know how many season ticket holders there are, but I'd bet closer to 5000 than 25,000..
My wife now knows how Cindy Lou Who felt, as she watches the grinches steal the World Series.
Thursday, October 18, 2007- - -
We're havin' some fun now!
A fitting end to the opening days of hunting season. Anyone who didn't get down off the Big Horns about the time I did is still up there. Not necessarily a bad thing if you've got plenty of food and refreshment and the time to wait it out, but I had things to do that don't involve being snowed in for the rest of the week.
Like getting ready to go to the World Series. My wife -- the Colorado Rockies fan -- is in seventh heaven right now and I've promised to try to get tickets. Also T-shirts. And hats.
Lost their head..
It seems the anthro department at the University of Illinois has lost its head. Shouldn't have left it lying around I suppose. [Even 30 years ago we kept "Shakey Jake" in a locked cabinet for fear of Halloween pranksters.] For their purposes though it's not as if the specimen is irreplaceable. Here are a whole variety of scientific-quality human crania casts that would be quite adequate for teaching an undergrad class.
Sunday, October 14, 2007- - -
Tales from the Republic of Kathoolei
Yes, you do have to be a little different to live in Wyoming and Thomas Bleming is differenter than most. Fascinating stuff from Burma/Myanmar.
Saturday, October 13, 2007- - -
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..
At least at higher elevations. It was nearly dead calm when we crossed Sylvan Pass into Yellowstone Park on Tuesday so I had to stop and take the obligatory mirror-image shot of Sylvan Lake. From there we drove over to Old Faithful and spent the rest of the day wandering around the minor geysers and hot pools in Upper Geyser Basin. A spectacularly beautiful day and probably one of the last for the park before winter sets in for real.
Monday, October 08, 2007- - -
I thought this would be like the article caption we saw one morning in the Grand Forks Herald when I was in school up that way: "Fertile woman dies in Climax", Fertile and Climax being a pair of small towns just over the border in Minnesota. Fertile strippers apparently really do make more money..
Our tax dollars at work!
Seems there are about 20 million American households who will be affected by the final changeover to the digital standard in broadcast TV. Those folks who've been getting a broadcast signal with a pair of rabbit ears will have to dig deep and buy a $60 digital to analog converter. Those getting their TV from cable or satellite systems, the majority of us, won't have to do a thing.
But never fear, the govmint has a $990 million program to give qualified households two $40 coupons to help buy their converters. No, I didn't make that up.
Thursday, October 04, 2007- - -
Here's one you won't get from Heloise: After-market spring sets. To insure that their guns will function even when full of dried up WD40 and sock drawer lint, S&W fits their revolvers with springs left over from an off-road suspension kit. And I exaggerate only a little. This little M63 Kit Gun still had the original factory springs in it, giving it a horribly stiff and gritty action.
Fortunately, the good folks at Brownell's have the answer: Wilson Combat's "Custom Tune" Spring Kits. I've installed them* in all my S&W's and they make an amazing difference in the smoothness and lightness of the action. The revolver kits come with a light hammer spring and three trigger rebound springs of varying weight, supposedly because the lightest rebound springs may be too light for reliable functioning. However, I've never had a problem and just drop in the lightest of the rebound springs. YMMV, especially if you lube your handgun with WD40 once every 10 years and then leave it in the sock drawer..
You do have to disassemble the revolver's action, which requires a good set of screwdrivers (I like these gun specific sets) and a S&W Rebound Slide Spring Tool, but the new springs drop right in, and it's a good excuse to scrub the crud out of the action, something no one does near often enough. Re-lube the action too while you're at it (I've been using FP-10 and really like it**). Or you can drop off the gun with your trusty gunsmith and let him wrestle with that feisty rebound spring slide. It is a tricky little devil and apt to launch itself across the room, so best not to mess with it if you're unfamiliar with S&W actions.
It pains me to pay someone $50 to install $10-worth of parts, but this is one upgrade that's worth the price even if you do pay someone else to do it. A good detail cleaning and lube job, and a new set of springs and the little Kit Gun slicked up very noticably. I can't help thinking that all that gritting and grinding in the action that I'm not feeling is that much less wear I'm putting on the gun too.
And the best part: Because I did install the lightest combination of springs, I'll need to do quite a bit of shooting to make sure the gun really is reliable. I hate when that happens.
*These spring sets used to be marketed by Wolfe Springs and I've mostly used those. Wolfe Springs appear not to be available any more and I suspect they've been bought out by Wilson Combat. At any rate they appear to be the same great spring sets with new packaging. Update: In digging through a pile o' parts I've come across a couple sets marketed as "Brownell's Pro-spring Kits". No matter, they're all the same. Who'd a thought that manufacturing and marketing springs would be such a volatile and incestuous business?
**A 4 oz. bottle of FP-10 goes a looong way, as it only takes a drop here and there to do the trick. It is pretty runny stuff though, and easy to use too much. Thus, I suspect that the aerosol versions would be a bit over the top for most firearms applications. You'd have the stuff everywhere. I usually apply a drop straight from the bottle wherever I need it and then sop up the excess with a Q-tip, but one of those precision pen oilers would be awfully handy, as it's almost impossible to use too little and any excess will come dribbling out. The runniness of the stuff is good and bad I suppose, bad if you use too much and it saturates your fancy custom wood grips, but good in that you can put a drop here and there on an assembled gun and it will creep in to where it's needed. That's particularly handy on guns like the S&W's that aren't easy to disassemble: Just remove the sideplate, hose it out with some Gun Scrubber, apply a few drops of FP-10, dab up the excess, and reassemble the sideplate. Some of the fancy greases might be better lubricants, but they're infinitely more difficult to apply.