Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More on The Big Lebowski 2

A trailer for The Big Lebowski 2 with Tara Reid playing all the parts. She incorrectly predicted a sequel last month, and this is her act of atonement.

World's Most Expensive Rifle

It's $820,000.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

1911 Call Sign

Currently (9:30 PM EST) you can hear (at 7175 kHz) on SSB the ham radio station OL1911VP in the Czech Republic. It's a special callsign to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Victoria Plzen Football Club. Needless to say, there is quite a "pile-up" trying to work this guy. In just a few minutes he has worked stations in Martinique, Barbados, Venezuela and all over the U.S.

UPDATE: and, as always, there's an app for that:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Long Ride

Friday was a beautiful day. Bright overcast, high seventies. No wind to speak of. So I took a long bike ride. Packed a lunch and set off from the old Lorton Prison, now called the "Workhouse Art Center". I pedaled up route 123 toward Fairfax along the paved bike trail. It's called Ox Road in Prince William County, and Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax County. Then back by the same route. I pedaled for 4:45 and rested for 25 minutes to cover nearly 35 miles. Not the longest trip I have ever taken but a grueling slog; I haven't biked in months and I'm out of shape.

Check out the display from the iPhone:

Notice how little battery is left after less than 5 hours of continuous GPS use. That battery was in a car charger until the minute I pushed off at 12:20. I brought along a neat little USB charger like this one:

But the iPhone didn't like it; it reported, "The charging device is not supported..." So the iPhone was nearly dead after five hours. This is an app called Cyclemeter.

Here's a snapshot from near the end of the trail:

Waples Mill Road in Fairfax. Just a mile from the NRA's HQ the country is surprisingly wild; I saw a large adult red fox a hundred yards farther down the road. And an eagle carrying a squirming fish in its talons.

The NRA building is at the 16-mile point. As you can see, I had some trouble finding a bicycle route across I-66!

When I got home I was exhausted and fell asleep for a couple of hours. Then I took a shower and the salty taste of the water surprised me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Augustus Owsley Stanley III

His obit is in the NYT here.

And there's a 2007 article about him in Rolling Stone here.

Over the course of the next fourteen years, Owsley — known to his friends as "Bear" because of his prematurely hairy chest as a teenager — enlisted in the Air Force, became a ham- radio operator, obtained a first-class radiotelephone operator's license, worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and served as a summer-relief broadcast engineer at TV and radio stations in Los Angeles. He married and divorced twice, fathered two children and got himself arrested on a variety of charges. He also studied ballet, Russian and French.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Screengrab from the New York Times:

Screengrab from Boing-Boing:
Notice the very curious misspelling of the word "imminent" in both articles.

I guess I can cancel my subscription to the NYT if they're going to cut-and-paste from Boing-Boing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Insiders Reap Fortunes From Federal Programs

Story in the WaPo here.

Read it and weep.

See if you don't agree with me that the Small Business Administration should be closed; shuttered; zeroed out of the budget. Its enabling legislation repealed.

Small business loans, minority set-asides, non-competitive contracts, women-owned business preferences... they're all open invitations for people who know how federal contracting works to game the system and pay themselves generous salaries, hefty bonuses and huge profit participation. Check it out: the Alaskan shareholders received an average of $300, but the D.C. lawyer who set it up earned $500,000 annually.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fire Leapt From Their Telegraph Keys

It was the worst solar storm in history, the Carrington Event in 1859:

In addition, the geomagnetic disturbances were strong enough that U.S. telegraph operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment—some bad enough to set fires, said Ed Cliver, a space physicist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Bedford, Massachusetts.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Was It Something I Said?

Actually it was something that Uncle said. Thanks for the link, Unc!

What Was That About "Positive Press"?

Looks like the ATF's public relations arm is now making arrests.

Reuters via Yahoo.

They'll probably round up every suspect and thereby close every ongoing investigation in order to max-out their arrests during the Grassley committee hearings. And then what? No more arrests for a year, while they build up new cases from scratch.

A Third Opinion

I've been working on getting my ham radio station back on the air. The new place is a tiny apartment, so a stealth antenna is called for. I used a slingshot to loft about 100 feet of stranded #26 copper wire (with black insulation) into the trees outside the window. The far end is in the trees and the other end travels under the window screen and into the room, where it is soldered to a banana plug. The banana plug is inserted into the post of a 4:1 balun. On the hot end, the output of the transmitter runs to the Daiwa 2-needle SWR meter, then to the LDG tuner, then to the 50-ohm side of the balun.

I had read that the little SWR indicator on the Yaesu 857 was not only too small (it's about the size of a cellphone signal strength indicator) but was inaccurate, too. So I wanted to verify the SWR. For that I got a little LDG analog meter that plugs directly into the "meter output" connector of the transceiver. Much easier to read, and with much more precision.

There's an HRO (Ham Radio Outlet) about 2 miles from my new address; I'm doomed!

So I put it on the air tonight, at only 10 watts, just to check the SWR. After adjusting the tuner (just push the button, actually, and it does all the work) I obtained the results shown: All three meters indicate a perfect match on 40 meters.

Then I switched the transceiver to 3675 kHz and pressed the key down. The two analog meters both read 5:1 and the Yaesu SWR indicator was offscale and flashing "SWR-SWR-SWR".

So technically this looks like a successful foray, but on the non-technical side not so much: my morse code skills have deteriorated to about 8-10 wpm. Very slow, even on the (so-called) Novice CW bands. I found some morse code practice sessions on iTunes (ain't life grand!?) and downloaded 'em to the iPhone. I can copy 8 wpm in my head no problem, but you know there's more to it than that. There's dealing with fading and noise and interference and those ham abbreviations: "VY GD ON YR QTH" and so on. I need some practice!

Steampunk Ammunition Grasshopper


Ink Truck Crashes

Several hundred gallons of ink splattered onto the highway, said Joe Ferson, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Approximately 16,000 pounds of ink cartridges from the Flint Group, an Indianapolis-based company selling printing and packaging products, was bound for a newspaper company in Portland, Maine. Red, blue, and yellow ink cartridges were inside the truck, but Ferson said there is no evidence the yellow ink was released.

Video link:


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

[Not] In The News

Crazed Gunman Slays Three (In France)

Another Crazed Gunman Slays Eight (In France)*

How do you say "gun-show loophole" en francais?

I read a lot of online news, and I didn't see this covered by NYT, WaPo, ABC, Yahoo, Reuters, CNN or even Agence France Presse.

*More: maybe because the Daily Mail is still archiving it with today's date on it, although it happened in 2002! Grrrr.

The triple-slaying is from last week, however.

There's One At Every Network...

(Link fixed)

Science Fiction Map


Edible Cigar

Food as art:

They made a Cuban pork sandwich that looks like a Cuban cigar. "We take the spices that go into the pork shoulder and fashion that into ash," said Cantu." We take the sandwich and wrap it up into a collard green" and add an edible cigar band. "We put it in a $1.99 ashtray and charge you about 20 bucks for it."


Storm Warnings

2010: 47% of Americans Pay No Income Tax
(Source: USA Today)

2011: Government Entitlements Make Up One-Third Of U.S. Wages
(Source: The Economist)

Quote: "A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury."

But who said it? Franklin? de Tocqueville? Tytler? Rand?

Answer. Sort of.

WaPo On ATF Controversy

Full story here.


The frustrations of agents began appearing anonymously on Web sites. Anti-ATF bloggers sympathetic to the militia movement picked up the allegations late last year, dubbing the scandal "Project Gunwalker" and alleging ATF agents let guns "walk" to boost the numbers of U.S. weapons recovered in Mexico. The bloggers theorized that the ATF wanted high numbers to gain support for an assault-weapons ban.

"...sympathetic to the militia movement..."? Oh, come on!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Toga! Toga! Toga!

One hundred and fifty classic movie lines and catchphrases in under 11 minutes!

h/t Neatorama.


I cracked open a battlepack and took the M1A out to the NRA range. "BF 79-78" means Portugese, I think.