Last week, I sold a bunch of books to the local used bookstore (Bookmans, which is an awesome store). They gave me a normal store credit slip saying I had a credit of ~$45 good for anything in the store.
Unfortunately, that same slip ended up being in my pants pocket when I did laundry this weekend, and is now in very small pieces on my desk. Alas, this also means it’s now worthless — Bookmans doesn’t keep records of credit slips, and they encourage you to treat them like cash. Unfortunately, the credit slips aren’t as durable as cash.
That’ll teach me to check my pockets prior to doing laundry.

Spam Fighting

I’ve been having a bit of an issue with blog spammers hitting my blog. While they fail some of the protection I have on the backend, including getting caught by Akismet, it’s still piling up in my administrative interface and generally annoying me.
Over the next week or two, I’ll be testing a few different anti-spam measures. I’m looking for stuff that presents the absolutely lowest burden on readers while still being effective against spammers. Any suggestions?
I’ve been using YAWASP, which has been moderately successful, but some spammers seem to be adapting, resulting in some spam getting through to Akismet (my last line of defense). I’m a big fan of reCAPTCHA, as it helps a university convert books into digital format, and it has an audio option for those who cannot see. It also is quite effective against stopping spammers, while not being a terrible burden (it uses actual words, rather than the random characters that other CAPTCHA options use). Does this sound reasonable to people?
Update: I’ve installed Bad Behavior as a spam filter. If anyone is accidentally blocked from reading or posting comments, please contact me.

New Shooter Ammo Fund

The costs of running this blog are extremely minimal, about $20/year or so. Well within my meager student budget.
However, ammo costs a fair bit of money. While I wouldn’t think of asking readers to contribute money for my own personal ammo budget, I’d welcome any assistance that readers might be able to offer to help me provide ammo for new shooters that I take to the range. None of the ammo funded by such donations will be used for my personal use, though I may shoot a magazine or two so as to demonstrate things to new shooters.
I’ve put a small PayPal button in the right column where people can donate, if they wish. Of course, this is entirely voluntary, and nobody should feel the least bit compelled to donate. If you do donate, please let me know if you’d like your name (or pseudonym) and URL mentioned in posts, and I’ll gladly give you credit in the new shooter reports. Those who wish to stay anonymous will have their wishes respected.
I feel very awkward asking for donations of this type, and hope that nobody feels any less of me because of it. Unfortunately, donations to the New Shooter Ammo Fund are not tax deductible.
Update: I also thought of a different option: if people would be more comfortable donating ammunition itself rather than money, please contact me and I can provide my shipping address. The top priorities are .22LR (both super- and subsonic, though subs are preferred; Winchester Dyanpoints work excellently with my suppressor, are subsonic out of a 16″ barrel, and are not nearly as expensive as purpose-made subsonic ammo) and .223 Rem/5.56mm NATO (62 or 55 grain bullets are fine — I’ll gladly take even “cheap” stuff like Wolf). For safety purposes, I’m only willing to accept factory-new or commercial reloads (like Ultramax or Miwall), not individual reloads or handloads. Cheap imports are fine, so long as they’re safe to use and meet relevant specs (e.g. SAAMI, NATO, etc.).
Lower priority but still important are .30-06 Springfield (M2 Ball spec only, as it’s being fired from an M1 Garand which has very specific pressure tolerances), 9mm Luger, and .45 ACP.
In certain quantities, I may be able to help pick up part of the UPS shipping. Contact me for details if you’re interested.

New Shooter Report

Over the winter break my friend Diego and I took his cousin from Brazil out to the local shooting range. The cousin had fired some BB guns as a kid, but otherwise hasn’t fired a gun in years.
After clearing up a few misconceptions about guns in the US that many foreigners seem to have (everyone has guns, machine guns are common, people need licenses to own guns, etc.) and going over the safety rules, we headed out to the excellent Chabot Gun Club in Castro Valley, California. Alas, I had left my guns in Arizona, so Diego brought his .45 Colt lever-action rifle, a .44 caliber blackpowder pistol, and Diego’s new Walther P99. We had also brought Diego’s 12ga double-barreled shotgun, but forgot to bring slugs. Since shotshells are not permitted on the rifle and pistol lines, we were unable to use it.
While I had some difficulty explaining the various techniques due to a language barrier — Diego’s cousin speaks Brazillian Portuguese and has an academic knowledge of English, he has not had much experience with native English speakers, and so his practical English is only moderate…I don’t speak any Portuguese at all — Diego, who speaks excellent English, Spanish, and Portuguese, helped translate some of the more troublesome parts and all went well.
Diego’s cousin (whose name I don’t recall, unfortunately) had an excellent time, and quickly improved his shooting skills. I’d post some pictures, but Diego’s cousin has all the pictures on his camera. I’ll have to talk to Diego to see if I can get copies, as the cousin is back in Brazil.
Someone remind me not to loan my car keys to Diego when he goes to get something out of the trunk — he ended up locking my keys in the trunk, and so I had to call my insurance company’s roadside assistance to come unlock the door so I could open the trunk. It turns out that the doors to my car are trivially opened using a small wedge to open a small gap between the door and the frame and a long metal rod with a small hook on the end to reach into the cabin and flip the locking tab near the door handle. Never again will I leave even remotely-valuable items inside my car.
Today my friend Alex (who has accompanied me on several range trips) and I invited Alex’s girlfriend Ayla to accompany us to the Tucson Rifle Club.
She was eager to come, as she’s been looking at getting a gun or two of her own in the next year or so after she gets out of college and will be living on her own. Without having handled any in the past, she expressed an interest in a relatively simple and reliable handgun like a GLOCK, but found that the mainspring in such a gun to be difficult to manipulate, and has ruled out such guns for the time being. I have no revolvers for her to try, but she enjoyed my Ruger MkIII .22LR pistol, even if she found holding the gun out at arm’s length to be somewhat tiring. We’ll no doubt find her some handguns she likes, but for the time being, she’s much more comfortable with rifles.
As usual, the suppressed Ruger 10/22 was a hit for starting out, particularly when shooting at a set of steel swinger targets (given to me by my lovely fianc?e for Christmas). Ayla rapidly moved up through the MkIII, through both of my AR-15s (though, as I expected, she preferred the adjustable-stock M4gery as she could adjust it to fit her comfortably), and finally to the M1 Garand (Rita, who has been a long-time range companion, called Ayla and insisted that she try the M1). While Ayla developed a bit of a sore shoulder from the M1, she really enjoyed it.
Here’s some pictures from the day:

As always, clicking on the image will enlarge it.
The spinner targets are supposedly rated for 9mm-.30-06 softpoint ammo, but I started out by shooting .22LR at it. The .22s made the spinners bounce back and forth, but didn’t actually spin around and lock in the up position. I fired a few 9mm Speer Gold Dot JHPs at the spinners (I don’t have any SPs), but had difficulty hitting it 30 yards away (each target is only about 4″ in diameter), but eventually did to great effect. While the manual says not to shoot FMJ ammo at it, I risked a few rounds of 9mm FMJ with no damage (not even any dents) to the targets. I even went so far as to shoot .223 FMJs at it, which rather soundly flipped the spinners around and didn’t have any deleterious effect on the free-moving spinners, but which left a small divot in the reset target which is very nearly fixed. I’ll avoid FMJs on the reset target, but it looks like the spinners will handle .223 FMJ without any problems…I certainly won’t toss .30-06 FMJ at it anytime soon, though.
I’m impressed at how bullet-resistant steel is, even against rather pointy .223 FMJs moving rather quickly. I may have to see about welding or clamping on heavier steel plates, at least on the reset target, so I can shoot FMJs at it with confidence.
Unfortunately, the trip suffered from an acute ammo shortage: I thought I had an extra 250-round can of Lake City M2 Ball .30-06 ammo, but it turns out I had only a few clips left. I’m also down to the last three magazines of .223 (turns out my goal of loading ammo for one magazine a day didn’t pan out), though I have components for a few thousand more rounds. Even my supplies of .22LR (~2,000 rounds) and 9mm (~600 rounds) are running low. Don’t even ask about 12ga or .30-30. Fortunately, while money is tight, ammo supplies at most vendors are also low due to high demand, so even if I had the money to buy more ammo, it wouldn’t be there to buy. Hopefully supply catches up with demand about the same time I get more money. 🙂

First post of a new year…

Well, it’s 2009. What’s new? Well, I’m stuffed with delicious holiday food (which has not bee good for my waistline), have a few pairs of new socks, and a fianc?e.
I find it strange to be asked to help plan a wedding (as I don’t know the first thing about wedding planning), but find it intensely surreal to be asked to help plan my own wedding. Very odd indeed.
Anyway, as no doubt people want pictures, here’s a picture of me and my lovely bride-to-be:

Yes, I’m extremely white. The fact that it’s winter and I got let out of the laboratory only long enough to visit family and friends (this was taken outside my parents house) doesn’t do much for my complexion.
As some people are no doubt interested in pictures of the ring, here’s a close-up:

It’s 18k white gold with a 0.437ct G color, ideal-cut, SI1 clarity, AGS-graded center stone with two 0.25ct side stones with the same grade color, cut, and clarity. It is extremely shiny, and looks fantastic on her finger.
We’re looking at getting married in 2010. I’ll no doubt keep you posted.
In other news, I’m on track to finally get my bachelors degree in physics this year (December, I hope). After eight years of on-and-off-again college (interrupted by a few years in the US Army and some periods of slacking at community college) I’m almost done. Next up, almost certainly grad school: in order to do anything really interesting in the field of physics, one needs a doctoral degree. Hopefully I’ll be done by 2016. At this rate, Sarah and I will probably have a kid or two, so I’ll need to make sure I can balance grad school, finances, and family. Any advice?
Some resolutions I made:

  • Take more new shooters to the range.
  • Go shooting by myself (or with a spotter) more often, so as to build my own skills.
  • Shoot at longer ranges than 100 yards.
  • Shoot more than just paper. (Sarah bought me this for Christmas, so that should help.)
  • Pay off all my debts, including my low-interest vehicle loan, and start socking money away in savings. Not only is this a good idea in general, but I’d like to have some cash put away for living expenses and whatnot whilst in grad school.
  • Study more. In retrospect, I spent far too much time last year slacking when I could have been studying. This will be rectified.
  • Eat better. I eat far too much unhealthy food. This needs to be changed.
  • Get in shape. I’ve been in shape (thanks to Uncle Sam) before, and I rather liked it. A few hours a week at the gym won’t kill me.

This winter break consisted of very little shooting, as I didn’t bring my guns to California when I visited family and friends. I did go shooting with my friend Diego and his cousin (new shooter report coming soon), which was nice, but I’d like to shoot more.
More as I get it.

Big news!

About 30 minutes prior to New Years here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I asked my Sarah, my girlfriend of nearly three years, to marry me.
She said yes.
Now, if only those butterflies in my stomach would quiet down, I’d like to get some sleep…