Sunday, February 23, 2020

Ugly Duckling

Watching that episode of Danger Man with Bobbi the other night, I had my belief reinforced that the English only make two kinds of aircraft: gorgeous ones and ones that should only fly under a brown paper bag.

Toward the end of the episode there was a smallish, twin-engine, tricycle gear aircraft that featured the same trim, vertically-oriented engine nacelles as the Dragon Rapide (one of the most attractive airliners ever).

That was all it shared with the Dragon Rapide, though, because the slab-sided hydrocephalic fuselage looked like it had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

Guessing from the engine nacelles that it, too, was a de Havilland, I looked on Wikipedia and sure enough, it was a de Havilland Dove, the more modern, and uglier, replacement for the Dragon Rapide.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

From an Away Game...

"Incidentally, the prevalence of portajohns at ranges is the biggest argument against carrying baller custom 1911s.

If I drop a Glock or an M&P in the shitter, then f$&k it. I'm pulling a fresh one out of the range bag and the honey wagon driver can have himself a new gun if he wants it. I'm not dyeing my hands blue for $400.

If I drop a $3500+ custom blaster in there, however, I gotta glove up."

Space Oddity

If Nikon's Pronea 6i looked like a prototype of the future consumer-grade DSLR and Canon's EOS IX looked like a Nineties sci-fi movie prop, Minolta's Vectis S-1 looked like...well, it looks normal now. If I'm walking around with the Hasselblad Lunar or the Fuji X-E1, someone inevitably asks "Oh, is that a film camera?" Despite it actually being a film camera, it's unlikely anyone will ask that about the Vectis.

It looks pretty much like a generic digital MILC or Bridge Camera from about ten years ago, not a film camera from 1996.

The lens this one shipped with was Minolta's V-mount "travel zoom". At first blush 25-150mm sounds like a super useful focal length range, but remember that shooting in "H" mode with APS film results in a crop factor of approximately 1.25X, so you have a field of view equivalent to about a 31-180ish lens.

It's a slow lens, too. Maximum aperture at the wide end is only f/4.5, and that falls off pretty quickly as you dial in the zoom and past about 55mm you're looking at a maximum aperture of f/6. The lens is also unusual in having no provision for manual focusing. Shooting the Vectis S-1 is a reminder that autofocus was still fairly new in 1996. It hunts a bit and is slow to focus; the 25-150mm is no sports lens, but that's okay, considering the camera's motor drive might deliver a single frame every second. It may look more modern than the EOS IX or the Pronea, but shooting it is a trip back in time.

The test roll, which is at Roberts now, was Fuji 100 that came in a sleeve of five, and the seller claimed had been cold stored. I manually set the ISO to 64 to compensate for the age of the film and, combined with the pig-slow apertures, exposure times on a sunny day were getting slower than 1/90th any time a small cloud crossed the sun. This camera, of course, predates any kind of stabilization in the lens...

Despite the off-center viewfinder, this is an actual single lens reflex camera, it just uses a rather more exotic arrangement of mirrors than the usual pentaprism or pentamirror. Despite that, the finder is crazy bright and features about 98% coverage, at a time when a Canon EOS Rebel gave you a dim 90% finder.

The film loads in that little trap door on the side of the camera. You press the blue "eject" button and the camera sort of whirs and chortles to itself for a second and then pops the hatch open to receive film. (It came with a manual so I need to read what you do if the two CR2 batteries give up the ghost while you have film in the camera...)

The thumb wheel will alter the aperture if you're shooting in aperture priority, shutter speed if you're shooting in shutter priority, and if you want to shoot in full stick-shift mode, the thumb wheel controls shutter speed unless you hold down the exposure compensation button while spinning it, and then it changes the aperture and leaves you longing for the dual control wheels on Nikon's Pronea 6i.

Minolta rated the camera as "splashproof" but I have yet to risk my $20 investment by splashing anything on it.

When it launched, it was not $20, but closer to $300. This was half the price of the Nikon and a third the cost of Canon's stainless EOS IX, which was so expensive it was only on the market for two years before being yanked in favor of something dumber and plastickier.

Minolta's V-series lenses are currently completely useless without a Vectis. There's no point in making adaptors for them because even the ones with "manual" focus use a focus-by-wire ring and the lens needs to be communicating with the camera for this to function. (Minolta and Nikon were the only ones to make APS-specific lenses, although Nikon's used the company's standard F-mount. Minolta engineered an entirely new mount for the Vectis...and collapsed and was absorbed by Sony in seven years. "Vectis wrecked us.")

Friday, February 21, 2020

Trigger Control

The Race to the Boxcars

Is it still hip to be square?

Overheard in the Office...

Huck is looking out the window on the south side of the house with an air of agitated confusion. Where the silver maple full of birds and squirrels that provided hours of great cat TV once stood, there's nothing but a pile of stump shreddings; mulch to be carted away.
RX: (narrating for her cat) "You've changed things and I don't like it!" 
Me: "I'd like that on my tombstone, please."
BTW, if anyone needs a pickup truck load (at least) of wood mulch in the Indy area, we can hook you right up.

Picking up film today...

While it's expired APS, I don't think it'll be this bad. It was cold-stored.

I also have to drop off the test roll from the Pronea 600i.

A regular boner for regulation.

Having hamstrung self-employment by forcing companies to treat Uber drivers and freelance writers as employees*, the California legislature is casting their eye around for another sector of the economy to torpedo.

The Eye of Sacramento has landed on the Adult Entertainment Industry. Apparently now they're proposing that Californians obtain special licensing to, among other things, show their boobies to other people on the internet for money.
"On Tuesday, Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez (D–San Diego) and Christina Garcia (D–Bell Gardens) introduced Assembly Bill (A.B.) 2389. The bill would require adult entertainers and video performers, including webcam performers, to obtain a business license and complete a state-mandated training course before being allowed to ply their trade."
You will be unsurprised to find out that Gonzalez is the mastermind (in the loosest sense of the term) behind AB5, the legislation that torpedoed the gig economy.

*Another thing at which you will be less than surprised: AB5 exempts several specific categories of freelancer from its ridiculous requirements, and lawyers are one of them.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

I just don't get it.

A blogger is asked by a coworker to sharpen a knife:
"I can't do anything with this but throw it away."
We live in a time when Amazon will deliver a decent CRKT or Kershaw that will last for years of use to your doorstep for less than the price of lunch for two at a middlin' decent sit-down restaurant. (Way less if you don't order a beer.)


He was the starting forward for Munchkinland

For a less flippant read on last night's debate, I commend this to your attention.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Handwaving Freakoutery is where it's at...

Social media was built for flipping out about stuff.

Past its Best-By Date

Good article at Popular Photography on some tips and pointers for shooting with expired film.
If you’re shooting film already, you know that you need to develop a tolerance for uncertainty.

Film can be fogged, or wrecked in development. Your shutter might drag or the mirror not swing up correctly. Without an LCD screen built into the camera, you have no way to check whether you got the shot—you’ve put your faith in your camera, your skill, and your film.

It’s like doing a trust fall every time you release the shutter.

Using expired film compounds the uncertainty, like jumping from an airplane with a parachute you just bought at an army surplus store. You don't know who packed it or what it may have suffered in all the years since then. Okay, maybe it's not that bad—there is a lot less to go wrong with a roll of film than a parachute, and a lot less riding on it—hopefully.
This is a necessity if, like me, you've been bitten by a strange desire to fiddle around with some APS cameras, since the newest APS film is a decade past its use-by date...


Slender Man for Suburban Housewives

I've had a few tabs open for a while now, waiting for the Muse to strike about this "sex trafficking panic" that has eaten social media whole. The Muse never did strike, so I'm going to strike her so I can close these tabs.

Basically, it's Slender Man for Suburbanite Housewives; the Ladies' Auxiliary of Q-Anon.
"Are you nearing middle age? Is your life kind of dull, a vast arid expanse of paying bills and cleaning house, stretching out to the horizon of senility? Here's a fun and exiting game that you can play that adds a thrill of danger, complete with puzzles to decode and patterns to recognize!"
You've got people freaking out every time they see a work truck, LARPing their kidnapping fantasies in Hobby Lobby, and zip-tying their own wiper blades together in the hopes of going viral on Facebook.

There's even a Junior Version of the mythos. I've seen parents flip the f^$k out when a stranger got too close to their kid in an otherwise innocuous attempt to get a can of soup off a grocery store shelf. The ugly truth is that you need to worry about friendly ol' Uncle Earl or the kid's Sunday school teacher a lot more than you need to worry about a stranger who looked a bit too Middle Eastern while trying to get some minestrone in aisle 6.

Unless you're an immigrant of questionable legality or a teenage runaway (or both), your odds of needing to worry about sex trafficking are about the same as your odds of needing to know what to do with those Lotto winnings. Settle down, Gladys.

What are the odds?

From a discussion elsewhere about a women's self-defense-slash-"empowerment" program:
"While I agree that a lot of "women's self defense" stuff is overly oriented on stranger danger and getting Gladys ready to go all krav maga on the white slavers in the Hobby Lobby parking lot rather than "minimize assholes in your life", I find the notion that one can separate "relationship safety" and "physical self-defense" into completely different spheres to be exotically naive."
Like I've said before, statistically speaking, you already know the person you're most likely to have to pepper spray.

Of course, even the stuff that does acknowledge the physical component tends to peddle woo, because people like woo. One two-hour session of stomping on the foot of a guy in a Red Man suit and yelling loudly is an easier sell than hours in a gym or dojo every week. (And lord knows I need more time in a gym.) It's a market driven by customer demand, and what customers demand is: "I'd like to buy a hundred dollars of self-confidence, please. I can squeeze in two hours on Saturday next week between grocery shopping and Suzy's band recital."

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Catholic Tastes

Some people dig vintage muscle cars and other like Porsches. Still others are into British sports cars or Corvettes. Me? I just like cars. Pretty much all kinds of cars.

I wouldn't say it's the main reason I carry a camera around with me at all times, but it's definitely one of the main reasons. Some people are bird watchers or trainspotters, and I'm a car capturer.

I'm especially fond of spotting older iron that's obviously still in regular use as transportation. It doesn't have to be pristine, either.

So when I ran across this piece at Car and Driver, I was tickled:
"God knows social media sucks. Careers implode on Twitter, families destroy each other on Facebook, and Instagram is an excellent medium for sharing photos that will one day lead to social ostracism and personal embarrassment. But there is one thing that all those platforms are wonderful at doing: sharing photos of cars. 
Occasionally I'll take a photo of a new Porsche 911 Turbo S or McLaren, but it's the old stuff still being used as transportation that is the best. It's always so much better to see an old car on the road than it is to see one parked at some show with its owner next to it snoring in a lawn chair. 
Car shows have never done much for me. So a car is parked on the lawn. Big whoop. But seeing an old car that's still being used as a car is always thrilling to see. Cars at car shows are often museum pieces, restored and preserved. Meanwhile, cars that are still being used are still making history. How they look at any particular moment doesn't mean it will look the same in a couple of months with another couple thousand miles on the odometer."


Monday, February 17, 2020

QotD: Update Edition

Bobbi's machine installed a large Windows update last night:
"Y'know, the old Bell System could be pretty high-handed, but they never showed up unannounced and repainted my telephone overnight."
Once upon a time, kids...I swear this is true...programs came in cardboard boxes which you bought at a software store in the mall, and which held little plastic things shaped like the "Save" icon, probably because they had parts of a program "saved" on them. Depending on how complicated the program was, there could be rather a lot of those little plastic Save icons in the box.

Anyway, to install the program on your computer, you would sit in front of the machine for up to thirty minutes, sticking these plastic things into a slot that was like a USB slot but much bigger. You'd insert them one after the other as you were prompted, while your computer whirred and chortled to itself, making mechanical noises that seem very steampunk in retrospect.

Then, once the program was installed on your computer, there it remained, unchanged, until you decided to erase it.

Hand to god, this is how it happened back in the wayback days.

Oh, so that's what it means...

The APS film format came and went while I wasn't paying attention. It showed up a couple years after I'd stopped working in the photo biz, and by the time I was paying attention to cameras again, it was 2001 and I was buying a Sony Mavica digital camera and film photography itself was collapsing precipitously.

The Nikon looks like a regular SLR, while the EOS IX is self-consciously '90s cyberpunk
The name survives because what we currently refer to as "crop sensor" DSLR & mirrorless cameras use a sensor that gives a "crop factor" of 1.5X (1.6X on Canon) and is referred to as "APS-C".

As it turns out, there are three ways you can shoot a picture on an APS film camera. The standard one, which uses the entire negative, is in a 16:9 aspect ratio and called "H" on the camera, for "High Definition", since HD video was a new and novel thing at the time. There was also a mask that would crop the sides off the image to give a more traditional 4:3, referred to on the camera as "C" for "Classic". Finally there was a "P" mode for "Panorama", which aggressively cropped the top and bottom of the image for a 3:1 ratio, which returned 4x11" prints.

Note that the image was only cropped in the viewfinder, using LCD or mechanical masks, or sightlines, and the instructions for each print size were encoded on the film for the lab's printer to read. The actual negatives were all recorded full size for each image.

The name "APS-C" survives as the most common sensor size in DSLRs because sensors were crazy expensive to make. Camera companies had experience projecting images onto a piece of film this size, so there we were. As sensors became relatively cheaper, and relatively easier to make efficiently, ones that are the same size as legacy 35mm film became more common. (This is because lenses are the important thing in photography. Get bought into a lens ecosystem, and you're likely there for a while.)

Incidentally, APS-H lived on into the digital era as well. While Nikon's first pro digital body, 1999's watershed D1, used an APS-C sized sensor and didn't increase the size until going full-frame with the D3 in 2007, Canon thought that pro photogs needed more sensor real-estate. The sensors in Canon's 1D, their first in-house pro body in 2001, were larger, giving a crop factor of 1.3X. Because of this crop factor similarity, they were called "APS-H", even though they used a standard 4:3 ratio.

To give an idea of how much the price of the sensor affected the price of the camera, the APS-H 4MP EOS 1D dropped in 2001 for $6500, and a year later the full frame 11MP EOS 1Ds joined it in Canon's lineup for a whopping eight grand. That's better than $200/MP or, looked at another way, seven dollars per square millimeter of additional sensor size. At seven bucks a square millimeter, the head of a pin would be $28 and a penny would be almost two grand.

(I had thought that the Canon EOS IX and Nikon Pronea 6i were the only semi-serious APS film SLRs out there, but it turns out there's another!)

The times, they have done changed...

Car and Driver gathers the top-of-the-line variants of the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger for a comparison test:
In previous incarnations of this journal, the procedure for writing a headline for a comparison test similar to this one would have been to add up the peak horsepower of all the participants, add an exclamation point or two or three, and be done with the thing. But in these more enlightened times, simply typing "2207-hp Smackdown!" just doesn't cut it.
Two thousand, two hundred, and seven horsepower...divided among three cars.

In the Eighties, when I was furtively reading Car and Driver in the back of Driver's Ed instead of paying attention to Blood on the Asphalt or whatever scare pic was showing at the front of the classroom, 2,207 bhp would have been ten cars, not three. And ten fairly brawny cars at that.

I happen to have C/D's 1985 Road Test Annual right here, so let's see...

  • Chevrolet Camaro IROC Z28: 305cid V8, 215bhp (with the 4spd auto, the manual got you 190)
  • Ford Mustang GT: 302cid V8, 210bhp
  • Dodge Shelby Charger: 135cid I4 turbo: 146bhp (the Challenger nameplate was on hiatus)

Well, there's the Big Three's pony car offerings for 1985...okay, the Charger wasn't a traditional pony car at the time, but rather a sporty fastback coupe built on the floorpan of the Omni hatchback grocery-getter. (This was, incidentally, widely accepted as the fate of everything at the time. The front-engine, RWD eight-cylinder Camaro and Mustang were viewed as retro holdouts, desperately fighting the decline. There were even whispered rumors over the next few years that Ford was going to move the Mustang badge to a more fuel-efficient FWD platform.)

But we only have less than six hundred horsepower accounted for, here. If we're going to have a 2207-hp smackdown, we have to find another 1,600ish horsepower. I suppose we could include some other domestic sporty cars:

  • Pontiac Fiero GT: 171cid V6, 140bhp
  • Chevrolet Corvette: 350cid V8, 230bhp
  • Merkur XR4Ti: 140cid I4 turbo, 170bhp
  • Dodge Omni GLH Turbo: 135cid I4 Turbo, 146bhp

Well, that gives us another 686 horsepower, bringing us up to just shy of 1,300. Only nine hundred more horsepower needed for our "2207-hp Smackdown!" I guess we could include imported models to buff out our totals:

  • Toyota MR2: 97cid I4, 112bhp
  • Isuzu Impulse Turbo: 122cid I4 turbo, 140bhp
  • Audi Coupe GT: 136cid I5, 110bhp
  • BMW 635CSi: 209cid I6, 182bhp
  • Porsche 928S: 303cid V8, 288bhp

Well, there's another eight hundred and close! We only need another hundred and eighteen horsepower to finish it out:

  • Chevrolet Cavalier Z24: 173cid V6, 125bhp

Well, that puts us a little over the top, but the '85 Mirage Turbo (102bhp) or VW GTI (100bhp) would have left us short. And besides, a "2214-hp Smackdown!" is seven horsepower more exciting than a "2207-hp Smackdown!", especially when you get to spread that smackdown over thirteen cars instead of a mere three, right?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Well, that's a day wasted...

Woke up, binged on my Sunday morning political talking head shows* the way you do, and toddled into the office to discover that my right leg hurt a lot and my head hurt a little.

Well, it was Sunday and I didn't have any real plans outside of writing, so I figured I'd lay down for another little bit. Which resulted in my leg gradually hurting less and my head gradually hurting more and more.

tl;dr: I spent pretty much the entire day in bed with a splitting headache.

I'm not prone to headaches, so on the rare occasions when I get a bad one, I'm not very good at powering through it. Ugh. I don't envy people who get more practice at this.

*ABC's This Week with George Stephanoponoponopoulos comes on at nine, then Meet the Press on NBC at ten, and then I can cut over to CBS and catch the last half of Face the Nation.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Last night's dinner & a movie...


"What became crystal clear to me, as I watched the traffic around these things develop, is how many more clicks I could farm if I wanted to. I’m an entrepreneurial sort of guy. I own a business. I believe in market freedom. Thankfully I’m not some poor sap trying to make a living on Medium. If I really wanted traffic, the formula would not be to do what I was doing, which was building a case for a specific solution to solve a clearly identified problem. The formula would be to identify the highest traffic topic on Facebook, and feed those people what they want to hear.

I would craft articles in two forms.

1) “All the people you’re arguing with are stupid and here’s why”

2) “Share this article to prove how virtuous your side is, or alternately how much more virtuous you are than your friends because you found the article first”

These are the two most common forms of culture war weaponry in employ today, by people on all sides. One is the attack, which undermines someone else’s virtue, and the other is the defense, where you buttress your tower of virtue against attack. They take these forms because virtue is the fundamental quality of a culture. This stuff gets liked and shared far more than anything else."
This isn't something that's just done by Vox or Breitbart, by SJW snowflakes or fascist Trumpanzees...  All the commercial news & opinion sites do it, with varying amounts of intentionality.

It's necessary if having clicks, and therefore ad revenue, is important to the site owner. The perfect article or column would piss off half the people who read it and leave the other half feeling smugly justified; then it would be shared by everybody, either to rebut it or to cheer along and signal to one's teammates how right y'all are. The way to get the eyeballs is to be an arms dealer in the kulturkampf.

And it's toxic as all getout. The end result of the scenario is ugly.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Compulsives gonna compulse.

I coulda been a contendah...


The CP+ 2020 expo in Yokohama, one of the largest photo trade shows, has been canceled due to COVID-19.

Trade shows, especially international ones, are hotbeds of infectious diseases, and this show is not just geographically close to China and the epicenter of the virus, but the photo industry as a whole is hip-deep in a China-sourced supply chain.
Of course, SHOT Show is also full of suppliers from China, and further, takes place around the Lunar New Year when the city of Las Vegas is rolling out the red carpet for plane loads of tourists from China.

I mean, I joked about having the Wu-Tang Coriolisvirus, although I'm pretty sure it was whatever strain of regular old flu is going around, but you have to wonder how many cases of actual COVID-19 managed to get interpreted as the regular old flu and went home and got better because nobody thought to check.

Old Year's Resolution

When I went out to sweep the snow off Bobbi's car & shovel the walks yesterday morning, I brought the old Coolpix 990 ("Probably the most eagerly anticipated digital cameras of 2000."-DPReview) along and snapped this photo of the snow-covered Mustang.

A Coolpix 990 hand-me-down from Oleg was the camera used to snap any photos you see on this blog from the beginning up until summer of 2011, when I accidentally left it at home for the Lucky Gunner Blogger Shoot and bought a more modern Kodak to replace it.

Last night, I brought the picture up in Photoshop to have a look, and thought "Has some asshole stolen the antenna off of my parked car?" I zoomed in to 100% magnification and couldn't find a trace of it.

I actually took a detour in the 13-degree darkness to check while I was out taking the trash to the curb before bed.

No, it turns out that, when shooting in "Fine", the little 3.3MP 1/1.8" sensor lacked the resolution to pick the antenna out, especially against the background of the fence.

In fairness, even with the assistance of twelve hundred lumens of Surefire, my not-getting-any-younger eyeballs had a hard time resolving it against a cluttered background, too.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Iowahawk wins again...

It's David Burge's internet; he just lets us play on it. Read the whole thread...

It's not a nuclear hand grenade, but it's close.

For those of you who weren't familiar with this little Cold War artifact, here's the M29 Davy Crockett "atomic mortar" (actually a recoilless spigot gun). It used a teeny sub-kiloton nuclear warhead, which was the same one used in the Falcon air-to-air missile and the famous "backpack nuke" SADM man-portable nuclear demolition charges.

A battalion-level nuke gets funnier the more you think about it.

Can you imagine Corporal Snuffy standing by his launcher, waiting for weapons release to pass up to National Command Authority and back down to his crew while the T-55's of the Red horde poured through the Fulda Gap, bearing down on his battery's position? Yeah, me neither. If you had nukes within "I can hear loud noises" distance of the FEBA, they were gonna get used.

Segregation Forever, Apparently

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Central Planning

CNN Travel had a piece on an interesting abandoned village in the United Arab Emirates.

Why is it abandoned? Apparently back in the early days of the UAE's independence there was a modernization drive to try and use some of the newfound oil wealth to build villages. These villages were to get the roaming Bedouin tribes to settle down. People moved into the village, but the government had built all the houses...and hadn't yet gotten around to hooking the place up to utilities.

Eventually folks decided that if they wanted to live without electricity and running water, they could just as easily do it in tents, and moved back out again, leaving the tract housing to the desert.

Ah, government! Is there anything it can't screw up?

I don't get it...

People have been puzzled because Canon introduced a relatively inexpensive version of their full-frame mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS RP, but all the RF mount glass released thus far has been high-end and spendy. The closest thing to a cheap lens for the R thus far has been a five hundred dollar 35mm prime. Most of the rest of it is multi-kilobuck L glass.

Welp, the "kit zoom" grade RF lens is now available for preorder at Adorama, and while it is very reasonably priced, it's a lackluster 24-105mm f/4-7.1.

f/7.1 at 105mm? The RF mount is so big that you can about chuck a basketball through it and get nothing but net. How do they manage to squeeze so little light through at 105mm?

I mean, I'll slum with a 3.5-6.3 travel zoom if I'm getting, like, a 10X zoom range out of the deal, but a 24-105? GTFO.

Cheap Glass

I picked up one of these for a song myself, back around 2015 when the film market was bottomed out.

The good thing about Canon FD glass is that, unlike Pentax K or Nikon F, it's an orphaned mount that can't be used on modern DSLRs and so the lenses are dirt cheap, relatively speaking.

The bad thing about Canon FD glass is that, unlike Pentax K or Nikon F, it's an orphaned mount that can't be used on modern DSLRs.

The good thing about mirrorless cameras is adaptors are available for almost all these old manual-focus lens mounts, and you don't have to worry about them not focusing to infinity like on a SLR. And if you're using full-frame mirrorless, you're even able to use them at their original field of view. (That's what I miss about not having the Sony a7 & a7 II around. Put this on an APS-C sensor and you wind up, effectively, with a 105-315mm zoom.)


Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #181

Yesterday morning was chrono day at the range, taking advantage of a hiccup in winter weather. Got some surprises with both rimfire and centerfire ammunition.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Potemkin Village Battleship Illinois

As part of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a replica of a modern...cutting edge, even, for its day...US Navy coastal defense battleship was constructed in Lake Michigan.

Dubbed the "Batleship Illinois", the faux-battlewagon wasn't actually a ship, but rather a cement-covered brick building built on pilings sunk into the lakebed. It was built as a duplicate of the Indiana-class pre-dreadnoughts that were then the pride of our fleet.

There were generators aboard to power the turrets and searchlights, all the living and working spaces in the superstructure were duplicates of the real thing, and the Navy sent a complement of officers, sailors, and marines to wow visitors by miming the work of a functional warship crew.

With all the expense involved in creating the Potemkin village warship, it would have almost been easier for the Navy to just build a battleship for the visiting crowds to gawp at, and then sail it off to join the fleet after the expo. Two problems prevented that, however. First, there was as yet no way to get a ship that big to the ocean from Lake Michigan. Second, international treaties cause the Canadians to flip their shit when we put M240s on motorboats, so you can imagine what an actual battlewagon would do to harsh their mellow.

It was intended to relocate the Illinois up the beach a ways to Navy Pier after the Exposition, where it would have served as a headquarters building for the state's Naval Militia, but nothing ever came of it.

No Indiana-class pre-dreadnoughts remain afloat. In fact, steel warships of this period are super scarce; there's the Mikasa, once the pride of the Chrysanthemum Fleet, in Yokosuka, and her one-time foe, the Tsar's protected cruiser Aurora, in St. Petersburg. On this side of the pond there's the USS Olympia in Philadelphia (ever in peril, see it while you can) and the turret ironclad Hu├íscar down in Chile.

If you're a SCUBA-American, however, you can visit the remains of BB-2, USS Massachusetts, off the coast of Pensacola, where she was scuttled and her hull used as a target for coastal defense forts and railway guns.

Chrono Day

Both .22LR and 9mm from handguns. I'm ready for disappointment on the rimfire; Stingers don't sting as much and Velocitors don't velocit quite the same when only given a couple inches for its running start.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Politics and Bedfellows

Nostalgia is Weird

I followed a link to Vanguard Motors, a purveyor of muscle cars, hot rods, restomods, and other desirable Detroit iron whose site I had not previously explored.

As I scrolled down the page of sales listings, I was noting the prices on some of the restored muscle cars and dreading running across a 1970 GTO, a battered and decidedly un-restored example of which I'd briefly owned in the late Eighties.

I stumbled across something even worse: A '74 Mercury Comet GT, a slightly sexied up version of the Ford Maverick. A friend had one of these back in the day and I came within spitting distance of buying it for seven or eight hundred bucks. Close enough that I drove the car for a couple days before the deal fell through. I wanted it because it had a floor shifter and a (fake) hood scoop that I found super cool.

It's hard to believe that Mercury, as a brand, is nearly a decade in the grave. To a high schooler just getting their car nerd on today, "Mercury" and "Oldsmobile" are as arcane as "Studebaker" was when I was in driver's ed.

The immaculate Comet GT at Vanguard was not seven or eight hundred bucks, but rather within rock-throwing distance of forty grand, a ludicrous sum in the mind of my inner high school senior for a tarted up Maverick with a smog motor 302 that, in stock form, wouldn't pull a greased string out of a cat's ass.

The motor in this one isn't stock, having had the usual mods of an Edelbrock manifold, Holley 4-bbl carb, and upgraded ignition system added. There's also a nice aftermarket dual exhaust but there's no room under there for headers, so it's probably hooked up to the restrictive factory exhaust manifolds. The sales listing notes the 302 still sports its factory cylinder heads, so the factory 8.0:1 pistons are probably still bopping up and down under them.

I suppose it floats somebody's boat, though.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Color Me Skeptical...

Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart is launching a self-defense initiative after she says she was assaulted on a flight to Utah last summer.

"I had been asleep and all of a sudden I woke up because I felt someone's hand rubbing in between my legs on my inner thigh," Smart told CBS This Morning's Gayle King.

Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home when she was 14 by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Eileen Barzee in 2002.

During the interview, Smart said she was shocked that a strange man sitting next to her would do something like that.
Instead of looking around at existing options, we needed to invent our own kung fu? Does it address sleeping next to strange dudes on planes?

The odds of this not being the punchy-kicky strip mall dojo Krav Maga-esque version of Lethal Lace "holsters" are slim, I'm afraid. "I suddenly became aware I didn't have something and so, instead of researching a market I had insufficient knowledge of, I decided to invent something myself."


My gun burkhas are way overdue for replacement. Just had to junk one because it wore through over the spot where the bottom corner of the pistol's grip rubs it. The remaining one that's not ultralight summer fabric is also badly frayed on the seams of the sleeves, so it's a goner too as soon as Amazon drops off the replacements.

Thing is, when I'd lost enough weight that I was experimenting with AIWB under an untucked tee shirt, I really missed the pockets on these things. Where do people put phones and notebooks and pens and cameras? Ugh the thought of carrying a purse again just ills me.

Mass Transited...

Friend Paul swung through town yesterday and we met for lunch up in Broad Ripple proper. Petite Chou Bistro doesn't have off-street parking and, since it's a couple bucks to feed a meter and way too cold to bicycle, I figured I'd just take the bus.

A one way bus ticket is a buck seventy-five and a whole day's pass is four dollars. Unfortunately I didn't bother to read the fine print on the website and lost a dollar's worth of my fiver to the fact that the fare machines at the stations don't give change. Oh well.

It was about a brisk five minute walk to the 54th Street stop, a five minute wait for the bus, and I wound up at the corner of College and Broad Ripple Avenue ten minutes early.

It being the middle of a bitterly cold workday, the buses on this stretch only had a couple passengers. Ride one during commuting hours or south of 38th Street, and it's an entirely different story, even at midday.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

...and then there was one.

When I first visited Roseholme Cottage, there was a pair of silver maples in the front yard, a pin oak and another silver maple on the south side of the house, and a huge old hackberry in the back yard. Now only the pin oak is left.

Getting the silver maple down was a complicated ballet, as one of its two remaining trunks leaned precariously over the roof of the house, and the tree itself was in the narrow gap between houses.

Canon EOS 5DS & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
They had to disassemble the gate leading to the alley to get the crane into the yard. Chunks of fence had to come down as well, to accommodate the truck's outriggers. The crane operator had to swing the chunks of maple over the roof, the phone line, and the power drop, and then drop them into the truck without hitting the utility lines in the alley.

Watching the guy make his cuts so that the crane operator could lift them vertically without the cut section swinging was really neat.

Delicate work indeed!

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Neat, But Not My Jam

Fujifilm just announced the fifth iteration of their X100 high-end pocket cam, the X100V.

Like other cameras of its ilk, such as the Leica Q, Ricoh GR, and Sony RX1 families, this is intended to be a go-everywhere camera for the avid photographer.

Thing is, while they all have large sensors, either APS-C or Full Frame, they also all have fast, fixed focal length lenses that are permanently affixed, usually in the 28mm or 35mm equivalent focal lengths. As I've mentioned before, I already carry something with me that has a fast, wide-angle lens permanently affixed; my phone. I'm just not enough of a photographer to use one of these the way they're meant to be.

I'm a big proponent of having a real camera with me all the time, but it needs to be one that can do things my cell phone can't. The iPhone 7 plus gives me a pair of lenses, roughly equivalent to the field of view of a 24mm wide angle and a 50mm normal lens. I've usually carried a camera in the opposite document pocket of my gun burkha, on the other side from my phone, pen, and notebook*. These days, it's still the Sony RX100, and the 28-105mm equivalent lens definitely does things my phone can't, and the 20.1MP 1" sensor delivers fantastic images.

*The camera serves the double purpose of keeping the unbuttoned shirt from hanging lopsided from the phone and pen being on the same side.

When Bush League Bites Back

So Berniebros were eager to claim the whole Iowa caucus debacle was somehow the fault of DNC skulduggery, the shadowy influence of Hillary '16 still attempting to block their socialist Santa. It was a conspiratorial meme eagerly picked up by the Right, which has been fertile ground for conspiratorial memes for some time now.

The truth, being Iowan, is far more banal. Behold the Iowa State Democratic Party headquarters:

To quote friend PDB:
I don't think it's too much to ask that your political party have a statewide HQ that's worth firebombing. A couple of anarchists are gonna look at that shack and go "Man, these poor guys. They've got enough problems. Let's go find a bank."
I'm suddenly feeling a little bad for them, to be honest.
"Guys, they want to take away our first-in-the-nation status in primary season. They say we're not relevant, too flyover country, too small." 
"I have an idea! Let's run the caucuses through an app! Apps are modern!" 
"Okay, guys, it's our big chance on the national stage. Are we ready?" 
"Oh, sure." 
"Is that new app working, Olaf?" 
"You betcha!"
Our city/county, with a population one third the size of Iowa's, hasn't been able to get the new mass transit fare-paying app up and running properly for six months. In retrospect, this shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. But every new day is a surprise to a dismayingly large percentage of the populace, as it turns out.

/checks pocket
Crap, my archaic paper bus pass expired at 0100 and I have to actually go stand in front of a machine at a station like a neanderthal to do anything about it. I CAN PAY FOR GROCERIES WITH MY WATCH, INDIANAPOLIS! IT'S 2020AD! WHAT IS THE F&*$ING HOLDUP?

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

"How do you do, fellow kids?"

While video games are the gateway to new firearms purchases in the same pop culture way that action movies are (Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson probably sold as many Berettas as the DoD), organic fan culture tends to resist being deliberately coopted and politicized, the way the younger Gottlieb is proposing.

The fact that no-one has yet photoshopped Gottlieb Senior's nerdy bow-tied noggin on Buscemi's body in this meme is a tragedy.

The End of the Hackberry

As Bobbi has noted, the hackberry tree in the back yard is no more. It was a very large tree...

It's a mixed thing. It provided fabulous shade for naturally-lighted photos in the back yard in summer, and was big enough to be a dependable backstop when loading or unloading firearms (a round will go through an exterior wall, but not five feet of hackberry trunk beyond it.)

On the other hand, it had been shedding limbs for a while and was on borrowed time. A truly ginormous tree, it had an ugly dead center and a vertical fissure right up the center of the main trunk. If it had come down on the house, that would have been catastrophic.

Have you tried turning your caucus off and turning it back on again?

There's an app for everything these days. Both SHOT Show and the Tactical Conference offer apps for planning your schedule at these events. Practiscore is an app used to score results at IDPA and USPSA matches.

The Democratic Party had an app, too, for reporting the caucus results in Iowa...
"Mandy McClure, communications director of the Iowa Democratic Party, said in a statement that the new app was not responsible for the delayed results.

"This is simply a reporting issue," said McClure. "The app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.""
People are less than pleased.

Speaking of people losing their minds, CNN's Chris Cilizza thinks this is an existential threat to our democratic system of government. To be fair, he seems to think that about a lot of things these days.
It's simply hard to imagine, given what we all witnessed play out on national TV Monday night, that some campaigns won't try to cast doubt upon the numbers in a way they would not have been able to if the reporting of the tally had been seamless.

That's obviously problematic for the candidates who appeared to be be overperforming and potentially headed to a victory. But it's an even bigger problem for faith in our democratic institutions -- for us to be able to trust that when we vote, that vote will be accurately counted and reported.
Remember those dudes and dudettes I was referencing yesterday? The ones who want Iowa's caucus bumped out of its preeminent position in the primary season? Well, the Iowa Democratic Party's cock-up may have delivered them their wish in an unexpected manner. Lord knows they have all the ammunition they need to call for bumping it back later in the calendar now.

EDITED TO ADD: Imagine the reaction of the Common Dreams wing of the party, who distrust any company as being inherently evil, to learning that the app was made by a for-profit company named "Shadow, Inc.".

EDITED FURTHER TO ADD: Oh, my god, the average age of the typical political party blockfuhrer is something on the north side of sixty. Like someone once blurted at our shooting club's monthly board meeting "OH, MY GOD. OLD PEOPLE AND SMARTPHONES!" (Politics at the superlocal level is almost entirely made up of retirees and under/unemployed young twenty-somethings, because those are the only age groups with enough free time to get really involved.)

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #180

.22LR pocket pistols have largely been the realm of "Ring of Fire" zinc blowback guns, at least as far as domestic manufacturers have been concerned. Italian manufacturer Beretta has built its Model 21A Bobcat at its Maryland facility, due to GCA '68 import points restrictions, and the Brazilian firm Taurus makes its little tip-up Bobcat clone stateside for the same reasons.

For a brief time in the Seventies, Smith & Wesson sold the tiny five-shot (5+1 for the adventuresome) Model 61 Escort, and now Ruger is offering their LCP II in a ten-shot .22LR variant.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Just missed...

While I was walking home from lunch with the D700 & 70-210mm f/4 combo, this little fella started chattering at me from a tree overhanging the sidewalk. When I stopped to take his photo, he jumped to a nearer branch and delivered a few choice epithets before scampering further up the trunk.

"Caucus" comes from the root word "Caucasian"

Well, it doesn't really. Its actual etymology is debated, but to hear the sounds emanating from some corners of the Democratic Party's big tent, it might as well.

Specifically, it has been noticed that Iowa, whose early contest sets the tone for the opening of the struggle for the Democratic nomination, is whiter than sour cream. Even more specifically, it's ninety percent cracker, and this fact is claimed to make it unrepresentative of the party...or the a whole.
While Iowa has been blamed for culling candidates of color from the race, it might also be to blame for limiting who runs in the first place, one activist argued. “One of the criteria for signing on to be a Democratic candidate for president in this country is How well am I gonna do in Iowa?” Reyma McCoy McDeid, a black disability-rights activist from Des Moines, told me. “If we’re talking about a state where, by and large, the political landscape is dictated by an aging, white … voting bloc, that obviously is going to be a hugely mitigating factor in determining who decides to run for president, and who’s considered to be a viable candidate.”
One WaPo opinion piece claims it would be less racist to use Georgia as the bellwether first primary...for the Democratic Party, since the GOP is just presumed to be intrinsically racist.
In an ideal world, neither party would prioritize a state with a population that is 90 percent white. But I am leaving the Republican Party out of this discussion since the GOP has decided to place all of its chips on a white nationalist agenda. Until Republicans deviate from this strategy — something their current leader and his party members show no signs of doing — the argument for changing locales of the first caucus state for presidential elections falls to the Democrats — the party that ostensibly should care about respecting and including its rich racial, ethnic and class diversity. 
Several of my students have asked me over the years just which state should have the honor of being the first state in the nation to set the pace for the presidential nomination process. I propose Georgia. Why? Georgia is a southern state with an economically diverse population, including rapidly growing Latinx and Asian American and Pacific Islander voting blocs. These diverse groups in Georgia reflect what the nation is becoming. White Georgians’ share of the electorate had been steadily declining while the African American share had been significantly growing. Given that black women have proved to be the backbone of the Democratic Party, the increase in registered black voters should not be ignored. In the past decade, Asian American and Pacific Islander and Latinx registrants and voters have reached measurable levels, and they have begun to affect voting outcomes in local, state and national elections.


Record high yesterday and supposed to tie the record again today. Sixty-something degrees isn't terribly warm in the grand scheme of things, but this time of year it feels like sunbathing weather.

Snow is in the forecast for Thursday, though, so we're going to be back to normal temperatures soon enough.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Droptop Fun

Local weather station is reading sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit, which is darn close to the predicted high from the Superb Owl game in Miami.

My current policy is that if it's over fifty degrees, not raining, and the trip involves no interstate travel, the top goes down on the Zed Drei.

This is what we prepare for!

Forget exotic viruses in faraway lands, what about viruses infesting monkeys close to home? Specifically, what about a strain of herpes that is fatal to humans, infesting troops of monkeys howling unchecked through the jungles of Florida?
A roving band of feral, herpes-ridden monkeys is now roaming across northeast Florida.

The STD-addled rhesus macaques had previously been confined to Silver Springs State Park near Ocala, Florida, but are now being spotted miles away in Jacksonville, St. Johns, St. Augustine, Palatka, Welaka and Elkton, Florida according to a local ABC affiliate, First Coast News.

Even more worrying: over a quarter of the 300 feral macaques — an invasive species native to south and southeast Asia — carry herpes B, according to a 2018 survey, National Geographic reported.
"What do you need an AR-15 for?" people ask, but then watch what happens when a troop of face-eating herpes monkeys comes hooting out of the trees, headed right for them. I'll bet they'll wish they had an AR-15 then!

Also, you know that New York Post reporter thought he'd died and gone to heaven when he got to write this headline:
Roving band of herpes-ridden monkeys now roaming northeast Florida