Sunday, April 11, 2010


Exercise is definitely something I don't get enough of, but I surprise myself sometimes anyways.

Couple weekends ago, on a sunday afternoon, I was sitting at the computer aimlessly surfing when I heard a light rumble, like something had landed on and rolled off the roof. I almost ignored it... but something bugged me about the tone, so I went out to check. I didn's see anything... but then realized that something was off.

Where there was a tree on the corner of the far end of the yard, was now a dripping ball of mud with some shattered wood sticking out of it. Yeah, that affects the skyline a bit, and the fence next to it too.

What the 'oddness' was ended up being a very ill but somehow still ever-green southern yellow pine, of about 2 or 2.5' diameter and probably 50 or 60 feet tall, with a horrible case of root rot, termites, and carpenter ants. It had decided, on a calm sunny day, to simply lean over across the side street next to my property and completely block it.

Well, dealing with it was a mild ordeal... the city cleared the road, but left me a nice 8' long stump hanging through my back privacy fence. I hired a pro tree service... because it wasn't so much chopping up the stump (only $75) but in looking around I decided it was high time to take care of some of the other tree items that held risk. I had them cable the silver maple that's close to the house in the back, trim a branch off the hackberry in the front that was far too close to the roof, and take a good look at another southern yellow pine that was no more than 6 feet from the one that fell and had the same 'symptoms' (those three, $600).

Long and short, it's deathly ill too, and is going to fall eventually like the first. But... it's part of the fenceline, where the other was inside, and it's lean has it mostly over the property line. $3500 was the pro estimate, but I can find less expensive cutters... if its even my problem to pay for.

After all that, still had a big 2' block of rotten wood leaning against a fence panel and tentatively still attached to the ground on one side. That one took some ingenuity... and is the reason I'm damnably sore right now. 200' of rope, a pulley, giant lag bolt for an anchor, couple-three quick links, and a 4000lb come-along made for a 5 hour long party.

Results? I turned two 100' poly ropes into two 120' poly ropes, burnt my hands up nicely, ruined a fresh edge on my hatchet chopping roots, and actually managed to rip the damn stump in half in the end. And there's still work to do, have to smack around the loosened up bits with a sledge maul and make smaller bits of 'em, dig some of the dirt out and try and level up the displaced fence panel, patch the broken part (tree fell slowly enough that it slowly ripped the panel out by the nails and only crushed 2-3 planks), chop roots, yada yada yada.

It would have been so much easier had I not skimped on the equipment. Instead of a single pulley (2:1 advantage) I ought to have gotten a couple of 2-3 pulley blocks and more rope, which would have given me ~8:1 or so advantage and would have let me just pull on the rope rather than hooking the cable puller to one rope, tying the tightened rope off, unhooking and unrolling the cable, tying a loop in the other rope, hook up the cable, crank it in, rise repeat... every cycle getting another 4' in the rope and stretch giving it away. Next time, steel cable all the way. I wasn't over the rope's weight limit (I think) but it was just that stretchy and killed all my effort.

I finished at 10:30... way too late to dig out the fence panel and right it. So the saga continues... the majesties and tragedies of home ownership.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

So you want to live on Mars...

... or any other floating rock with low gravity and a thin atmosphere.

I put some thought into this, and throwing enough 'raw' materials at the problem can actually make it damn simple.

You will however need a large amount of refining/processing equipment and this involves heavy construction practices (granted, moving material is much easier, though the cost of the energy is... astronomical).

Show up. Dig two large, extremely deep pits (talking miles here).

Place your constructed digs deep within one, sealed nicely except for the bottom.

Connect the two pits with a tunnel at the bottom.

Place a lightweight membrane over the other tunnel.

Fill the other tunnel with a water (or other fluid/fluidized material) and slurry mixture to the top.

What you've just done is use gravity and hydraulics to automatically pressurize the air chamber in the second pit, where you live... and you've got a nice ready supply of raw materials from which to process out potable water, chemical energy, and other raw solid materials. Actually, depending on the choice of fluids available and other conditions you may even be able to get away without a membrane, the working fluid forming a skim of ice or solids on top preventing evaporation. A thick mud would actually work brilliantly so long as it stays in colloidal suspension without too much work... the extra density from the suspended material would mean shallower pits.

Now, raw materials... I'm wondering if sunlight is strong enough for a concentrator to heat plain old dirt beyond the dissociation point for some of the oxides... Set it up, collect the outgassing, you get a plug of raw metal and usable gasses to pump down, mabe even bubbling through the "living pit" slurry for innate "processing"... have additives in the slurry to soak up the more reactive gasses, or if you pre-process them and use a 'raw water' hydroplug (look ma, I made up a new Sci-Fi term!) you could aquaculture it... algae, plankton, maybe up to aquatic plants and fish (there's a culture of trout living in the Lost Sea in Sweetwater, rather happily) to supply food and help with waste removal.

Actually, processing of organic wastes is even built in here... just mix your solids in with the feed line for the solar concentrators. You're recapturing carbon and water, sterilizing the waste feed, and there will be plenty of plant nutrients in the "ash" from the process. Need "better" chemicals? Adjust a locked-off section of the aquaculture and collect the ammonia. Stage that though, sick fish on the moon doesn't sound like fun, especially when they're eventually going to be dinner.

Lighting? You've got solar concentrators on the surface, just run fiber optic light pipes. Breathing gas refinement? Send some exhaust through a surface line just shielded enough to freeze off the carbon dioxide, collect that, and use it in a chemical battery with some of the metals from refinement... plenty of metals will react in the right conditions to make carbonates, or heavens bless, carbides. Some metals can also release hydrogen if they were allowed to oxidize in the slurry... then you just filter out the oxides, send them through the solar plant, recollect your oxygen. You'll have metal oxides, carbonates, probably nitrides and nitrates, ammonia, acetylene can be produced from the carbides, I can't think of anything you wouldn't be able to eventually produce... other than space. Better build it big enough, 'cause you're going no larger... unless you built add-on pressure and habitation pits from *below*. Then the only real issue is enough fluid material for the hydroplugs.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crawling out of the shadows...

Yes, I know I've been scarce. But, I bring forth neatness;

Proof of concept: pneumatic tabletop geyser. I had the idea as a way to make a water feature to raise the humidity in the house a little, without having a funky little water pump that would die screaming when my 30% humidity air sucked it's reservoir dry. It is, quite literally, a jar, some tube, and a cut up plastic cup held together with hot glue.

I did say it was a proof-of-concept after all. Those tend to be as fugly as pictured.

And then the photo post section! Star Ultrastar 9mm.

From an unassuming box...

Star Ultrastar 9x19, in like new condition. Quite unusual Spanish (Eibar) produced pistol.

Finish is... functional.

Slightly blurry profile (I was off-handing all these, btw)

A casualty of the AWB; instead of limiting mags, they assumed the AWB would be permanent and molded ribs into the polymer frame to hold a single stack mag. This obviates ever using a larger capacity magazine, but the single-stack should be a little more reliable.

An unusual safety/decocker, flip up for safe and further for decock...

...flip down to fire. It *is* the 'ordained motion' ala JMB, but not so much at the top rear of the slide.

One pin to rule them all, held by an internal tension spring.

Pin out, to reveal a CZ style "captive" cam system.

More CZ-ness appears in the layout of the fire control group. The ejector is hinged and must be pushed down to remount the slide.

Parts appear beefy, if machined a little too quickly.

The Star Ultrastar; A perfectly strange gun for someone with a perfectly strange array of tastes.

On a parting note: see Turbulent Black Tea: The Boisterous Tea of Liberty is Never Without a Wave.

A good friend of mine is starting up a website to try and arrange conversation amongst the left, right, center, and perhaps even the (thinking quarks here) strange.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The latest project, complete.

Not bad for stuff I had laying around, and a lot of eyeballed measurements and hand-tooling.

What is it? A desk mic converter to use with a PA system. The particular microphone that was in mind has a switch, but it's inconvenient... mount it here, plug in and plug the stand into the amp, and the black pushbutton is a momentary on switch. Fully internally shielded but without caps, it may ping a little on active/release but that's ok, it's a PA mic after all.

This was made almost entirely "from whole cloth" btw. The only prefab items are half a walmart craft plaque, a cast-off mic clamp, and the lid to a canister of tea. Well, and the switchgear of course... but the neck started as a piece of aluminum angle trim, and the bottom cover was bent and trimmed by hand.

I like it, honestly. Looks a little unusual due to the brass 'muffin' but that was a necessity as the switch was too long to mount flush in the base, and that was a quick'n'dirty solution. Neck's not perfect either but looks very organic... I bent that up in the small vise and hammered/filed away until I was happy. It's only painted because the metal was soft enough to scar up a little.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Like Christmas in... some other season

Last night I reviewed my bound book and opened up the safe to check on everything, make sure the oil hadn't evaporated, no spider infestation, etc.

It's been since January that I've bought anything. Shocking.

Also shocking; The things I pulled out of the safe that I'd forgotten about. Well, not so much shocking as "Oh yeah! Righteous!" that reminded me of opening presents.

ROFL. Did you know I bought two S&W M&P15 recievers in January, and own a sweet little H&R .22 revolver? 'Cause I sure as hell forgot...

I think I work too hard.

Monday, September 07, 2009


The (title) of my death are far exaggerated... I'm still here, just with different, perhaps skewed priorities.

I've been keeping so busy with job#1, house tasks, and projects that I've little time to write or even read. I keep up with Tam, SaysUncle, and Instapundit on a mostly regular basis though...

The bright side? I'm generally well rested, in better health mentally and physically (save for an aggravatingly severe bout with dermatitis brought about by formalin/linseed contaminated dust from sanding on pressboard re: projects), and fiscally... well, having only mondays at the gun shop hurt a little, but I can now and proudly say I have no rolling debts, period. A bit over a grand and a half remain on the truck... that, the mortgage, and the attached equity line are all that remains, and I'm laying plans to pay off the mortgage within a DECADE.

Projects? I have to reach back to july and think about this.... hrmm. What's not been mentioned...

- putting PA system in at the range (no links/photos yet)

- Finding new mad science tools on eBay like that handy-dandy counter and dual current-controlled var volt PS you see nestled next to the old freq gen in the Tek chassis

- Playing around with electrochemistry and building Hull cells like the one pictured in link, which will be used for de-rusting

- Fixing storage issues by adding a couple new shelves in the bathroom closet where once was just empty space. Note: that's the pressboard that fucked up my arms. Long sleeves or frequent cold-washing, folks, when cutting/sanding/mangling manufactured boards that use superfine fibers. Treat it like raw fiberglass.

- Fixing the undersink shelf in the kitchen, a jigsaw puzzle of wood squares...

- Taking my old liquor (ok, china) cabinet and doing a partial refurbishment, adding doors and reinforcing the legs, and installing knobs/handles

- Cleaning the spare microwave in the most detailed sense possible, to go out on loan (and yes, those are microwave parts soaking in the sink. Bzzzzt)

- Organizing my workshop. Seriously, you should have seen the before photos... and this is "during" anyhow, I'm not done since I keep interrupting myself with projects

- various odd little things like the speaker test stand and the miniature oil/naptha lamp that I figured out is real easy to make out of a .40 and 9mm spent cartridge (pop the 9mm's spent primer and drill the flash hole out to fit a wick. Done.)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy remaining Independence Day

Wow... no posts since May? I'm slipping. Or not slipping, and just heinously busy.

I can confirm it's the latter, actually. I'm in holding pattern; next week starts a different schedule for me, because I've elected to take myself down to one afternoon a week at the gun shop, and that only to keep "updated" and to give the top brass a night when they can both go home early.

What happened? Job #1 increased in activity and difficulty by a couple factors of ten. And, I'm enjoying it... I'm always up for a challenge. But there were so many days when I was busy enough to not get out until 6, and then a mad rush to the gun shop to work all of 2 hours, and the extra activity meant that when I got home I was so wired I couldn't sleep... weeks where there was at most 15 hours of sleep total, it started affecting my health, as well as driving me back into nicotine for a short while (hence stopped again, I thank the power above that I don't have strong withdrawal symptoms and only get the urge to smoke when I'm severely sleep deprived).

Result? Save for those Mondays, I'll have at least a couple free hours to myself at home daily, and they won't be wasted... I have a clipboard (soon to be an excel file) full of the kind of little home projects that leave you satisfied after an hour's work. Prime example: after a short hunt, I came home with some plastic garden hose shutoff valves yesterday. They were for the tanks on my dehumidifiers, which have always been right bastards to empty without spilling water everywhere. A little time with a 1/2" drill to the molded-in "sprue" on the tanks (they cast in a threaded hose blank, and left the ends closed), tighten the valve on, viola... instead of walking over to the sump pit and turning the tank over to dump, getting water everywhere and upping the humidity in the garage, I can neatly walk the full tank upstairs, park it next to the kitchen sink, flip a valve and walk off to do something else. PERFECT afternoon project, and I've got at least 30 of those marked down.

Firearm acquisition will suffer, unfortunately. That's ok, I have plenty, and still need to work on several of them (re: 3 complete AK kits with full complements of parts for 922r compliance are sitting jumbled in a plastic bin waiting for me, as well as a perfectly good .45 1911 slide assembly that needs a frame parked under it, sighting in the .444, degreasing some of the war horses, etc.) I'll save some money though, with time means I can cook again, though it'll likely be a wash. I may have enough time to me to sit down and draw out some ideas I've had, the ones I haven't been busy blabbing all over

I'm probably going to re-assume my old schedule when the holidays roll around... by then the primary job will have settled a bit, and I should be well rested and recovered and ready to bust my hump again.

I just have to remember to not feel lazy because I've decided to not work a 60+ hour week for the first time in half a decade, you know?