Cognitive Dissonance

I saw a car today with a few bumper stickers. Two of them stood out in my mind: an Obama/Biden ’08 sticker and a “????? ????” one.
Now, I don’t really care about other people’s political beliefs, so long as they don’t infringe on my rights, but it seems rather contradictory to have a sticker proclaiming that one would only give up one’s weapons “over [my] dead body” (either literally or metaphorically) and a sticker advocating the election of a candidate who has a well-known history of voting against the rights of gun owners.
Go figure.

Tip of the Day: Cleaning AR-15 Chambers with a Brush and Drill

As an owner of several AR-15 rifles, I’ve found that it’s relatively difficult to clean the chamber from accumulated gunk. Q-tips and patches don’t easily reach all the little nooks and crannies, and the standard chamber brushes are difficult (particularly when new) to fit into the chamber.
An easy, if somewhat l0w-tech solution, is to screw the brush into a length of cleaning rod that you’re not terribly fond of and then chuck the rod into an electric drill (or a brace-and-bit if you really want to go low-tech). First, I apply some cleaning solvent (I’m partial to Break-Free CLP, but anything should do) to the brush. Next, start the drill? clockwise at its lowest speed setting (you do not want high rpms while doing this) and insert the brush into the chamber via the back of the upper receiver as normal.
Voil?! While being driven by the drill, the brush now goes into the chamber with considerable ease. With it now fully in the chamber, the bristles can scrub all the oft-neglected parts like the locking lugs.
I generally keep the brush turning through the insertion, cleaning, and removal phases, as it makes it much easier to move about. While one can remove the non-rotating brush, it’s much more difficult to do so. Running the drill counter-clockwise will cause the brush to unscrew from the rod, which is trivial to fix, or jamming the brush in the chamber and possibly scratching the chamber, which is less trivial.
I’ve been doing this regularly for years with no ill effects — the steel and chrome of the chamber is much harder than the bronze bristles of the brush, and I’ve detected no signs of wear, scratching, or other problems.
Hopefully this helps people clean their ARs more effectively.
Got any more tips and tricks? I’m always interested in more.

Shopping Around

After spending a few days of spring break in Massachusetts doing wedding planning stuff and spending some time with the soon-to-be-in-laws (it’s cold in MA!), I’m back in Tucson.
After driving back from Phoenix (where I flew into and spent a few days with The Girl), I decided to stop at the Sportsmans Warehouse in Tucson and browse. As usual, their ammo/powder/primer supplies were depleted. A good 1/4th of their rifle racks were bare; I’m not sure if this is a result of their fun happy financial times or limited supplies from upstream suppliers. They did, however, have DPMS 30-round AR-15 magazines for a whopping $30 (not including tax) each. These same magazines sell, at retail prices, on DPMS’ own website for $18-$20. Yowzers.
On the same trip, I stopped by Murphy’s Guns and looked at their wares. Business was good, with two customers filling out 4473s for new guns, a few people buying ammo, and a bunch of people perusing the racks. They had several ARs in stock, an AK or two, the absurd-looking “Rolling Thunder” shotgun from Mossberg (photo here, press release here), and the normal selection of pistols, all at reasonable prices. There were a few higher-priced specialty rifles like the FN FS2000 (~$1,400, if I recall correctly) on the shelves as well. They were out of the Federal .223 ammo, but had plenty of PMC, Wolf, and Prvi Partizan .223 left (as well as a bunch of Prvi M193). They recently raised prices on the Prvi M193 from $9.19/20 to $10.xx (I forgot the cents), but they still have several of the old-priced stuff in the same crate, so I picked up 60 rounds of that stuff today. Get it while you can.
Alas, I ended up spending money today that I would rather have saved: one of the UPSes for my? computers had been indicating that its batteries needed to be replaced for some time (its runtime could be measured in tens of seconds rather than tens of minutes) and beeping annoyingly, so I bought some replacement batteries today. So far, so good — the batteries haven’t exploded yet, and they seem to be charging well.
I also took my motor scooter down to the shop, as I’ve been having annoying failures-to-start that would suggest a dead battery, but the battery is fine according to my float charger and my neighbor’s multimeter. Most days it starts just fine, but some days the lights only come on dimly and it won’t turn over (when I press the electric starter, the lights get even dimmer, suggesting that it’s supplying power to the starter motor but not enough to make it work). Occasionally it’ll turn over once, but not fast enough to start. If it does turn over once, something happens where I can’t kick-start it (but jump starting it from another vehicle works fine). If it doesn’t turn over electrically, then it’ll start just fine with the kick-starter. Hopefully the shop can figure it out, and hopefully it’ll be under warranty — money’s tight enough as it is.
As I had mentioned in a previous post, I’ve recently been struck with some inspiration for a lengthy piece of writing (whether it turns out to be a short story or a full-blown novel is left to my muse). I’ve been reading up on tips for turning such inspiration into a coherent story, and have been outlining some of my thoughts, detailing characters, etc. No idea when the first chapter will be done, but I’ll let you know when it is.

Musings on Need

With a map, you cant [sic] count the number of bricks in a building, or see the elevator shafts. With this level of detail (afforded by online maps,) you can. I hear the argument that, “Yeah, I want to also ban cars because cars are used in robberies.” Look, cars have other commercial uses. There are no other uses for knowing on a map where there are air shafts.

– California Assemblyman Joel Anderson, in this article.
Who gives a damn if you think there’s a “need” for something or not? The default state of rights in this country is “on”, so it doesn’t matter if we need something or not. There’s plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting detailed aerial imagery of locations.
In the case of air shafts, it might be useful information for an HVAC company to know how many air handlers and shafts are located at schools, churches, government buildings, and medical facilities so they could plan marketing information (perhaps those companies would need someone to maintain those air handling systems?). Perfectly legitimate and non-terroristic.
What’s so special about schools, churches, government buildings, and medical facilities that they warrant special blurring? What about blurring out banks? Airports? Monuments? Private residences? Chemical companies? Railroad switching yards? All can be sensitive locations, but they’re not on the magical “blurry” list.
The most absurd thing is that even if such legislation were applied to mapping companies in the US, it’d be useless — what’s to prevent foreign mapping services from taking satellite/aerial photos of US locations and hosting them outside of US jurisdiction? What’s to prevent someone from taking pictures from an airplane and putting them together in a huge composite map? If Google Street View has to blur out those locations, what’s to prevent people from walking around with their own digital cameras and submitting them to mapping companies?
No, restrictions based on “need” are absurd. I don’t “need” aerial photography, but it makes life easier. I don’t “need” as many guns as I have (I only have two hands, after all), but I wanted to buy them. I don’t “need” to buy the foods I do, but I want to eat them. I don’t “need” my scooter or car, but I prefer using them to walking. Anyone could come up with a reason why I shouldn’t have such things because I don’t “need” them, but that would be silly and in direct contradiction to my individual rights.
I’d like to propose a new law: anyone trying to pass new legislation that attempts to justify itself by claiming that people don’t “need” something or claiming that this law is “for the children” should be flogged in public.

Tragic Irony

Over the last day or so, I’ve been having a civil discussion with a gentleman in Germany about violent crime in the US and how — in his opinion — our lack of gun control contributes to said crime.
He went on to say that Germany’s relatively strict gun control makes violent crime much less common than in the US, particularly in the context of school shootings.
Just today, however, there was a tragic school shooting in Germany. In the gentleman’s own words, the shooting “sure takes some wind out of my sail saying those things happen because there are too many guns…”
Dammit. I hate it when things like this happens.

Saturday Shooty Goodness

I’ve spent so much time over the last few years teaching new people the basics of shooting that I’ve not really had time to practice on my own. Alas, I seem to have lost quite a bit, and need to practice more.
Saturday was supposed to be a big group shooty time, but we had 5-6 people either cancel at the last minute (one due to feeling ill, so that’s ok) or simply not show up (turns out that they had partied a bit too hard on Friday night, and were still sleeping it off). As such, it was just Doug, Louis, and I who went to the range.
Doug had been working on a small, programmable microcontroller for a few weeks. His hope would be that when the chip detected a sharp sound (e.g. from a gunshot), it would fire an IR LED with the proper sequence to trigger the shutter on a Nikon camera. We wanted to get some pictures of bolts cycling, as human reaction time is just too slow to get satisfactory pictures. Unfortunately, the microphone was a bit too sensitive, and the wind kept triggering it, so we abandoned that plan and just ended up shooting all day. Oh well.

Doug with his diabolical contraption and Asus Eee PC.

I had a fair bit of .223 piled up (~400 rounds), so we decided to run it through both of my ARs. Both the 16″ and 20″ ARs handled Federal XM193F, Ultramax 55gr, and Prvi Partizan M193 flawlessly. No failures of any sort out of the 300 or so rounds we actually fired.
Doug and I Ammo-testing science.

It’d been far too long since I was behind a trigger, and I admit that my technique has degraded a bit. While rusty, I was consistently rusty. So long as I maintain that consistency, I think I should be able to improve quickly with some more practice. For practice, I think I should find a specific, standard type of ammo (like Prvi M193 or something), zero for it, and
I'm actually getting some trigger-time!

In addition to the standard paper targets, we also brought my Do-All-Traps spinner target that Sarah had given me for Christmas. According to the box, it’s rated to handle 9mm Luger all the way up to .30-06 Springfield, so long as one uses soft point bullets. Alas, I have no soft points, and factory loaded SPs are considerably pricier than FMJs. Previous tests with various bullet types seemed to indicate that the two “spinner” targets could handle .223 FMJ with no damage, while the “reset” target developed a small dimple, as it didn’t have the same range of motion as the spinners. We figured that so long as we shot the spinner targets with .223 FMJ, it’d be ok.
Unfortunately, this previous testing was done with my medium-powered handloads, and not the hot, mil-spec Federal XM193F stuff. One of us (I think it was Doug) goofed and shot the reset target with one of these speedy little bullets, resulting in a grape-diameter dent in the steel and there’s a substantial bulge on the back of the target. Wowzers, this is some hot stuff. A few shots later to the spinners resulted in one of the spinners breaking in half and sending a semi-circular chunk spinning a few feet downrange.

Evidently when the manual says “No FMJ”, they mean it. It applies double to mil-spec FMJ. Who would have thought? Oh well. Anyone in Tucson have a welder? It’d be nice to re-weld the target and put some heavier steel plate on there so I can shoot FMJ at it without a problem.
As .223 is expensive, we also did some rotations on the suppressed 10/22. Alas, the spinner target is too heavy and .22 won’t flip them up. Even so, the targets go “ping” and bounce around, which is fun. When we went downrange later, there were a bunch of flattened out lead disks around the spinner — evidently the .22s flatten out almost completely and just lie around the target. We weren’t able to find any .223 fragments, not even pieces of the jacket.

As fun as the ARs are, I think I’m going to need to spend a bit more time behind the 10/22 to get back in practice. Inexpensive ammo is wonderful, and .223 is anything but inexpensive.
Between school, trying to get in shape (both in general and for the wedding), and work, I don’t have all that much time for range trips, but I see about making some time, possibly over the summer. Maybe get involved with some regularly-scheduled things like silhouette or action-shooting matches. We’ll see.


One of the great things about the internet is that it allows for fast, easy exchange of information with little regard for borders, censors, or other restrictions. Things like YouTube, blogging software, and effective search engines have allowed for some incredible content to be created and shared with others.
Unfortunately, it’s also resulted in kooks, who generally were shunned by real-world society (though there are a few real-life kooks, including a few “END IS NIGH”-type crazies wandering around the university with their signs), coming out of the woodwork. Take, for example, the crazy sprinkler lady — a look at her profile and the other videos seems to indicate she’s a bit of kook. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of science can easily see her various claims are utter bunk, yet she persists against all odds: clearly anyone trying to present an alternate opinion or use science is part of whatever conspiracy she wants to uncover.
In general, YouTube commenters are dumber than a bag of rocks and seriously make me weep for the future of humanity, but some just take the cake. For example, today I received a comment on one of my YouTube videos that (a) asked what aftermarket magazines I recommend for the Ruger 10/22 rifle, and (b) mentioned that the individual had found the “fastest” 10/22 full-auto conversion kit and to see the commenter’s profile for the video. Curious, I looked at the commenter’s profile, viewed the video, and was impressed by the cyclic rate of the rifle. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, so I replied to the comment and recommended a brand or two of magazines. The user replied via private message and then offered to sell me 10/22 full-auto conversion kits, to which I replied that since the machine gun registry is closed and I’m not a Class II manufacturer, I have no desire or legal ability to make such guns.
The user then replied via private message on YouTube with a multi-page message (see below the cut) that said that AIDS is a real-life “zombie virus”, claims to have been given “military intelligence” on the topics, quotes scripture to me, and recommends a variety of different firearms for anti-zombie purposes. It was incoherent enough to suggest that the user believes it and is also a total kook, rather than someone posting it for humorous or satirical purposes. I replied, politely expressed my disinterest and asked that they not email me. They then started posting comments on my other videos calling me a kook. Go figure.
Some days, I wonder how people like this can actually figure out how to get dressed in the morning, let alone work at a productive job to afford various living expenses. The message was so rambling and incoherent, I seriously wonder how they can function in normal society. Even more frightening is the fact that they likely vote with more fervor and regularity than your average person.
I’ve posted the kook’s message below the cut, but have “encoded” it using rot13 to prevent search engines from picking up on it, associating me with such content, and driving more kooks here. Just go to the rot13 website and copy-paste the text below into the field to “decode” it.
Continue reading “Kooks”

Pet Peeve of the Day: Exponents

How often do you see people using the words “exponentially greater” to me “very much greater”?
Pretty often.
Of course, it’s almost always used incorrectly by the mainstream press and general public, and this irritates me greatly.
Just like how there’s a clear meaning for words like “clip” and “magazine” (and they don’t mean the same thing), there’s a very clear meaning in math and science for “exponent” and “exponential growth“, and they don’t mean “very fast”, “very large”, or anything of that nature.
Don’t get me wrong, for large exponents, exponential functions increase extremely rapidly. But one can also have negative exponents (resulting in “exponential decay”, which is used to model things like radioactive decay), or very small positive exponents which result in extremely slow growth and long e-folding times.
In short: unless one intends to describe the actual expoential growth or decay of a certain function, please refrain from describing very large things as being “exponentially greater” than some other reference point. It makes you look almost as tardful as using “decimated” (to reduce by one out of every ten) to mean “utterly destroyed.”

Dr. Manhattan’s Amazing Technicolor Penis

I just saw Watchmen with a group of friends this evening. While I had never read the graphic novel, my friend says the movie is remarkably true to it. That’s always good. I honestly knew nothing about it, and so I went in thinking it’d be a sort of Batman knockoff. I’m pleased to report that I was wrong.
The movie was quite good. It had a deep, twisted, but not difficult-to-follow plot, some great fight scenes, a hell of a lot of character development, good special effects, a few highly-sensual but not overly-erotic sex scenes, and a decided lack of pants, most notably by Dr. Manhattan.
At first, he’s clad either in a tasteful suit or a weird crotch-bat-thing reminiscent of the garment that Sting wore in the 1984 film version of Dune…but later he goes full-frontal on numerous occasions, being pantsless more often than not. Manhattan certainly has the whole “chiseled body” thing down and looks? remarkably like a Greek sculpture, but I don’t recall Greek sculptures having wibbly bits quite like that. I suspect a few of the females in our party may have gotten a bit excited by said dangling azure wang. Honestly, out of all the movies I’ve seen with nudity in them, this is the first one with more full-frontal male nudity than female. While it I certainly prefer female nudity to male, I must admit it was interesting to see a movie that isn’t afraid to show such things in order to remain loyal to the original text, even in the face of an oft-too-puritanical-for-their-own-good American public.
The only thing longer than Dr. Manhattan’s penis would be the movie itself: it went on for about two and a half hours, but I never felt bored. There were several parts that I thought that the producers would simply put a “To be continued…” and continue with a sequel, but they blazed right through and continued with the movie. Most impressive.
Conclusion: If you’re not bothered by highly-muscled, large-penised men who glow with an eerie blue aura, nor by the occasional boob, nor by a few scenes of impressive violence and gore (hint: it involves an angle grinder), I strongly recommend that you see the movie. As I mentioned before, I haven’t read the graphic novel, but I’ve been told that the novel really brings out a lot of details that the movie simply didn’t have time to fully explore. I should go read it sometime.
Many characters from comic books make for some great Halloween costumes (Batman, Spider Man, etc.). Characters like Nite Owl in Watchmen would lend themselves well to such costumes. A Dr. Manhattan costume…not so much. Sure, stripping naked and painting oneself blue might sound like fun, it’s likely to result in the police getting involved (though I suppose the mugshot would be quite epic). Unless you have a remarkably prodigious member and a physique that would qualify you to be a character in the movie 300, do something else this October. Hell, even if you do possess those atributes, it’s probably a better idea to just go as one of the Spartan warriors rather than Dr. Manhattan. My eyes will thank you.