Thursday, December 05, 2019

No shore leave for you!

"China will ban US warships and military aircraft from making stops in Hong Kong in the wake of Washington passing legislation supporting the territory's pro-democracy protesters, the country's Foreign Ministry said Monday."
Well, it's not like it's been a friendly port since the handover anyway.

As spicy as things have been getting in the South China Sea, I'm surprised we haven't had any big incidents yet.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Rare Turf

So, a pastime of mine is using Google maps to explore towns in this great land of ours. Sometimes it's just out of idle curiosity. Sometimes I'll go so far as to imagine relocating there.  "Where are the cool neighborhoods? Where's the place where you can walk to the brewpubs and decent restaurants?"

One thing I've noticed is that there are not many places where you can walk to both a grocery store and good eateries in a neighborhood of single-family dwellings. The restaurants and grocery stores are usually not located in the same neighborhoods. It makes me appreciate the walkability of Broad Ripple.

I'd like to see how that went down...

What could be more Russian than taking a selfie atop a construction crane?

Graffiti tagging a polar bear.

I mean, I imagine that dreary winter days can get crazy stupid boring out in the ass end of Siberia, but I want to know how that went down. Did they just stumble across it while taking a nap and they happened to have the spray paint with them? It's not like you can just ask a bear to hold still and not kill you while you doodle on it.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Fundamental misunderstanding...

People don't seem to understand that most small gun shops are just another kind of Hobby Retail.

If you went into a model train store or an R/C car/plane shop, you'd expect to find the owner, maybe one full-time salesperson/manager, and the remainder of the crew cobbled together of part-timers, mostly students and retirees who are enthusiasts of the hobby and are willing to put up with crappy pay for love of the game and employee discounts.

Your typical small gun shop is no different. I should know, I've worked in a few.

My Annual Rant

So everybody's running around pushing that stupid "Cyber Monday" thing, which is a relic of the day when everyone had dialup at home and so saved their online shopping until they got back to the office on Monday and could mooch off the company's broadband. Now that we all have broadband in our pockets, this is practically horse-and-buggy levels of quaint.

That said, Surefire is selling their house-brand CR123 batteries in a 72-pack for $99. This is twenty bucks better than the best price at Amazon and, considering the 10-year shelf life of these things (and the fact that they have free shipping on orders over a hunnert bucks) means this might not be a bad buy.

FCC Disclaimer: I don't get anything from Surefire these days except spam email, but I'm an avid user of their products.

Instant Karma

Part of the concept of human civilization is that you just don't go running around killing people. In fact, what distinguishes a human civilization from a bunch of monkeys standing around in a cage is the concept that you are accepting civilization's offer of protection in exchange for the promise to not go around killing people.

There are exceptions to this that arise, should you encounter an exceptional scenario like someone trying to kill you. Even then, society doesn't say "Oh, it's okay to kill him, then." Rather, we concede that you may use sufficiently urgent and violent force to immediately stop him from his attempt, and if he dies, he dies.

This is why setting booby traps is illegal. The very fact that the device is designed to deploy lethal force in the absence of a human operator means that the one key factor that warrants the use of lethal force is not present. If your self ain't there, it is ipso facto not "self defense".

Too bad the dude in Maine who whacked himself with his own booby trap on Thanksgiving Day hadn't thought this through.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Best intentions, and all that...

I'd really intended for this cross-country road trip to involve more stopping and taking pictures.

My trip out was initially intended to have two middlin'-easy eight hour legs, overnighting in Joplin, MO and Amarillo, TX, leaving me with a final day's drive of only about five hours to Los Alamos. If I blew out of Amarillo early enough on that last morning, the short five-hour drive (combined with the fact that crossing from Central to Mountain time knocked a virtual hour off my pace) should have allowed for plenty of pulling over to photograph whatever caught my eye.

As things turned out, the ice and snow that virtually shut I-70 down around noon on my first day on the road saw me holed up in a Holiday Inn Express in Vandalia, Illinois for two nights.

I was there two nights because on the first morning there, I turned on the TV to the network news out of St. Louis, and the morning commute was a soup sandwich. Slideoffs and wrecks everywhere. It wasn't supposed to get anywhere above the teens, temperature-wise, until that afternoon, which meant that the brine on I-70 and I-44 along my route wouldn't be doing much.

So on the way out, I ended up overnighting in Vandalia and then Oklahoma City, and promised myself I'd get some photography stops in on the way back.

While I felt like death on a Ritz pulling out of Los Alamos at 0500 last Monday morning, I parked the EOS 7D, wearing the 17-55mm f/2.8 lens, on the passenger seat. I had high hopes.

As it turned out, I got that one roadside shot of the Mustang with its headlights on in the predawn gloaming somewhere north of Clines Corner, New Mexico...and that was about it for the 7D on the trip.
Getting on I-40 eastbound, I rolled past signs for historic Fort Sumner, but I didn't know how far south of the interstate it was and how far off my time it would put me, so I passed, despite being a big nerd regarding the Billy the Kid mythos.

Similarly, I'd intended to get a photo of the Mustang in front of one or another of the classic motels on Route 66 through the main drag of Tucumcari, NM. I pulled off the interstate at exit 329, passed a deserted, graffitoed urban hellscape of abandoned gas stations and motels that looked like sets from Fallout: New Vegas, and found my way onto Tucumcari's main drag, the old Route 66...the Mother Road.

But it was 8AM in the early winter, so the sun was low and southerly. I was eastbound, which meant I was on the wrong side of the street to get any good light on the car and background. Did I mention I was sick as a dog? I pulled off in front of one of the classic old motels, left the Canon in the car, and grabbed a nasty iPhone photo as proof of life.

Back onto I-40 eastbound, I consoled myself with the fact that I was still way ahead of schedule. At the rate I was going, I'd likely hit Oklahoma City thirty minutes too early to even check into my hotel. No worries, I reckoned, because I could use that time getting some fresh photos at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo!
Cadillac Ranch in 2011
I hadn't been by Cadillac Ranch since 2011. It's a most un-tourist-y tourist attraction; with no signs to point you there and no parking lot, it's just out there in a field near the highway. Park on the shoulder of the access road and wander out. Maybe there'll be fresh spray paint cans, maybe not.

On the way out, Cadillac Ranch was typically fairly deserted. Coming home on Monday morning, though? There were at least twenty cars parked up on the shoulder of the access road and a steady stream of people coming and going. And the sun was still way southerly at 10:30ishAM of a mid-November morning. There was no way I was going to get a well-lit shot of the place, especially without a bunch of people milling in the frame. Plus, I still felt awful...

On to Oklahoma City.

One thing led to another, and I never did feel up to pulling over for a scenic shot. Scenic shots get pretty scarce northeast of Joplin, anyway.

I wound up yanking the EOS 7D off the passenger seat and hanging it on the coat hook when I got back to Roseholme Cottage. At least it got a good photo of Thanksgiving Dinner.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Good Deal

This photo of the Mustang on the flat Texas panhandle was shot with a Sony RX100. This is Sony's deluxe zoom lens shirt-pocket camera.

It features a 20MP 1" sensor, which is huge for a point & shoot. Most cameras of this type have tiny 1/1.7" or 1/2.3" sensors, not much bigger than those found in cell phones, while the 1" sensor is the same size as that in Nikon's recently-discontinued "Nikon 1" series of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.

The RX100 was initially released in 2012, and I think the most recent iteration is the "RX100 VII", but Sony keeps selling older styles alongside newer ones, because newer iterations tend to change feature sets, rather than simply upgrading megapixels.

The cool thing about this is that new (or at least New Old Stock) original gangsta RX100's are on sale right now at Amazon for under four bills, which is pretty swoopy for an award-winning camera that cost over a grand when it came out.


Black Friday Deal

Surefire's running a Black Friday special on their little Sidekick key fob lights.

Rechargeable, and sporting an output that toggles between 5, 60, and 300 lumens, these things are handier than a pocket on a shirt. The sale price is $19.99, which is dropping into stocking-stuffer territory. I use the heck out of mine.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Believing what you read on the internet...

So, the Threepdawgs and Borthers are charging off in all directions again.

The Big Igloo may have failed to materialize in Putnam County, NY the other night, but within less than a week, everyone has found something new to cause them to run around with their hair on fire.

This time, it's that Virginia is supposedly going to outlaw firearms training. Here's a typical post sounding the warning, with a bunch of Threepdawg chest-beating in the comments.

This is the law these guys are warning you that Virginia is trying to pass:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. That § 18.2-433.2 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 18.2-433.2. Paramilitary activity prohibited; penalty.

A person shall be is guilty of unlawful paramilitary activity, punishable as a Class 5 felony if he:

1. Teaches or demonstrates to any other person the use, application, or making of any firearm, explosive, or incendiary device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to persons, knowing or having reason to know or intending that such training will be employed for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder; or

2. Assembles with one or more persons for the purpose of training with, practicing with, or being instructed in the use of any firearm, explosive, or incendiary device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to persons, intending to employ such training for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder; or

3. Assembles with one or more persons with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm, any explosive or incendiary device, or any components or combination thereof.
If any of these 21st Century Robert Newmans had taken thirty seconds to do their homework instead of rushing to the steeple of the Old North Church (those stair treads probably need replacing; they're well-worn in the middle) they might have noticed that those italics are significant.

See, §18.2-433.2 itself has been around since 1987, likely passed in the wake of early Eighties shenanigans by such wholesome folks as Bruder Schweigen and The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. It currently consists of just the first two paragraphs. The current bill only adds the third para, the one consisting of "Assembles with one or more persons with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm, any explosive or incendiary device, or any components or combination thereof", to the existing law.

All these people wanting you to set your hair on fire and run in circles with them about ZOMG THE DEEP STATE IS TRYING TO OUTLAW GUN TRAINING IN VIRGINIA haven't even read the existing law. Consider that fact when deciding how much credence to give to their mouth-noises.

Calm your tits, Herschel, and do thirty seconds of research before running to your keyboard for a change.

Sixteen years since the last Concorde flight...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Home Again

So that puts a 2,600 mile round trip in the books. My longest in the Mustang so far, definitely. Heck, I'm pretty sure it's my longest solo road trip ever. There was something that felt adventuresome about setting out on a trip like this in a car with nearly a quarter million miles on the clock and myself with a dangerously flaccid bank account...

I shouldn't have worried. Like Keads reassured me, the Mustang was a champ, with a fair number of good, long cross-country trips yet in her tank. Great big chunks of flyover country were flown through with the cruise control set at 80-90mph. I've got notes I need to turn into posts...