July 29th, 2002

Enterprise Bridge

Weekend recap

They Might Be Giants were in town on Thursday. I didn't find out 'till Friday. Again. Fuck.

I found out Friday from a friend who went to the show, while we were driving up to Huntington Beach to pick up or AR-15s. Yes, Virginia, it's possible to legally purchase an "assault weapon" in the People's Republic of California. You just have to understand the law. See, the law defining what constitutes an "assault weapon" begins with the qualification "has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine" (CA Penal Code 12276.1) Take away that capacity and you're legal again. So if you have a non-detachable 10-round magazine, you're in business.

We spent a piece of every day this weekend out in Ramona using them. They're a boatload of fun. After firing one, it's abundantly clear why the US military chose the AR-15 as the basis for the M-16 rifle. It's fairly simple in construction, simple to field-strip for cleaning, and its recoil buffer (a long spring in the shoulder stock) eats up so much recoil the thing kicks less than my pistols. (Glocks, which are also known for manageably low recoil.)

Dan bought his with a stock upper receiver-and-barrel assembly. This is what gives the AR-15/M-16 its telltale appearance--the carry handle/rear sight assembly. To aim it, you line the post of the front sight so it appears to be centered in the ring aperture of the rear sight. I ordered mine without the carry handle/rear sight, with a Weaver-style scope mounting rail instead. On this rail, I mounted a Bushnell Holosight. The holosight reflects a laser diode off a small piece of glass, which gives you a red dot and reticle showing you the point of aim. It doesn't put the reticle physically onto the target--that's just a plain old laser sight. It's an optical illusion visible only to the shooter. It doesn't require the shooter's eye to be lined up perfectly in line with the barrel--move your head and the reticle appears to follow along. Adjust it properly and all you have to do is put the dot on the target, pull the trigger, and the target gets a new orifice 223/1000 of an inch in diameter.

One of my other friends calls this "cheating". I call it faster, easier, less wasteful of ammunition (upwards of $0.20 per round,) and friendlier to the environment (fewer lead bullets left in the ground when you miss.) It's also quite visible even in low light conditions, where it becomes difficult to line up traditional "iron sights". It's not a replacement for a rifle scope--you need that magnification if you're trying to shoot at small targets more than about 150 yards away. But for larger stuff... wow.

It was neat to see how different the damage done by rifle rounds is from pistol rounds. If I shoot a piece of fruit with one of the Glocks, I get a hole through the fruit. With the rifle, the fruit blows apart. If I use hollow-point ammunition, the fruit blows apart spectacularly. I have this on videotape, which I'll edit and post sometime. It's really neat to see a canteloupe spray in a dozen directions.

Also learned this weekend: flammable substances don't always catch fire and explode when you shoot them. There was a shot-up gasoline can out there, with some gas spilled underneath it, but no evidence of a fire. Dan brought a can of carburetor cleaner, which simply split open and blew away from pressure when he shot it. There wasn't a dramatic explosive fireball. Tracer rounds might light them off, but since tracers are illegal in California, that's something we won't be able to test anytime soon.

We also learned that pistol bullets are actually somewhat visible in flight, under the right conditions. We got out to Ramona late in the day, less than an hour before sunset. Once it got dark, rather than leaving, we just turned on a million-candlepower floodlight. In that lighting, you could see the pistol rounds in the air as a traveling silver line about a yard long. Kind of like the laser ray gun effect commonly used in science fiction TV and movies. (The rifle rounds travel too fast to see, upwards of 3000 feet per second, more than double or triple the speed of most pistol ammunition.)

I mounted the living room stereo speakers on the ceiling. No more accidentally kicking them over on the floor! AND I finally painted the master bathroom ceiling. Two years after I ripped that water-damaged ceiling out, the room is again usable. I wound up painting the walls too, the difference between the new and old paint was too great. It needs another coat, so I'll hold off on using it 'till then. But it's finally almost done. (And damn, it looks so good, I might have to repaint other parts of the house!)
Enterprise Bridge

The jury should stay out for a while

I stopped by the high school on the way home from Palomar today. There were cars parked next to the gym, which screams "basketball". Since we finally got a new head coach, I thought I'd see what they were up to. Conditioning. They'd just gotten back from a ~2 mile warm-up run, and spent about an hour on some drills--stretching and agility, nobody touched a ball. I'm very happy to see this. A lot of basketball is fitness, conditioning, and agility. Those elements can tip the scales against an evenly-matched opponent, and will give you a fighting chance against a markedly better one.

Unfortunately, some of our players still haven't learned this. This kind of conditioning wasn't demanded of them in the past, and now that it's started, there's a few people whining. One commented that it would make sense once preseason practice starts in November, but not now. He fails to understand that success demands a year-round commitment. This isn't a surprise. There's been a lack of commitment and a lack of heart amongst some of our players for a while now. That attitude is poisonous. There's already one player who I felt had a good attitude a year ago, but has changed for the worse from the influence of his friends. There are others who haven't followed along, but have been disturbed enough by it they feel less productive.

I don't expect Coach Armstrong to back down in his expectations from and demands of this team. So what we're going to find out is how these guys deal with the pressure. Are they going to lash out? Are they going to bitch to their parents and con them into harassing the administration? Will they quit? Or will they actually grow up? I guess we'll see...

No, I'm not naming any names. That would be talking out of school. If some of the people involved happen to see this, they will know who they are, and no one else need be concerned.
  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed
Enterprise Bridge

MCI thinks they're clever

I noticed a few no-ID calls on the caller ID box over the last few days. I got another one early this evening, it turned out to be MCI wanting to take over my local telephone service. She promises as part of the deal that all calls I make will be charged as if they're local, anywhere in the United States. My bill is guaranteed to be no more than $49.99 a month. I asked for documentation before I would approve such a change. "But you don't need literature, that's why I'm calling." No, really, I don't care that it costs them money to send me paperwork, or that they've spent millions of dollars on TV advertising (which one, lacks details, and two, I don't see since I have a TiVo,) I want to see the details on paper before I commit to anything. "You don't need literature because the first month is free!" She assures me, she understands how I feel. I don't think so. She hangs up on me.

An hour later, I get another no-ID call. Again, it's MCI. I'm a valuable customer, she tells me. I've been one since June of 2000. That's laughable. My average LD bill (including their standard monthly fee and taxes) is less than $10. Once I had a bill over $30, it was a very busy month. I don't make a lot of long-distance calls. I'm not home a lot, and e-mail is far more convenient. But still, they think I'm valuable. So valuable that she says they're going to reduce my phone bill! She just needs to know how much my bills are currently. I tell her I don't know, I don't have the numbers in front of me. Okay, is it over $50?

"Wait a minute, are you asking me to change my local telephone carrier?" Yes, she is. "I just had a conversation with your people about this an hour ago." Oh, she's sorry. Yeah, I'll bet she is.

If this happens again, miles be damned, I'm switching back to the Death Star.