Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An AOC 2770vh1 monitor followed me home!

And darned if that big flat 27" monitor didn't fit nicely on my cluttered-up computer desk! It kinda dwarfs both my red alert phone and Eddie, but makes 1920x1080 under Windows 7 Pro really pop out at you. Now I wonder how I ever made do with a 24" monitor...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pumpkin Carving 2010

I finally put away all the pumpkin carving tools this weekend. This year proved our most intricate with respect to making cool things out of those oversized squash. Next year, I don't know if I'll have the patience...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just a little Wisconsin pond...

But the late afternoon lighting caught my eye, especially as it illuminated the dried vegetation on the pond's shore opposite the pending sunset. I grabbed the Nikon to capture the moment, and let go with the shutter for lots of frames. This one does a good job of expressing the still beauty of the scene:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Helping out Wikipedia with a Remington Model 8...

I note that Wikipedia has an absolute dearth of firearm images in some of their entries. I reckon I should fix those omissions, so I've begun inserting examples from my own personal collection wherever appropriate. That way, somebody else can enjoy the fruits of my labors, and the firearms can see the light of day from the otherwise dark confines of their gun safes.

First contribution, my restored Remington Model 8 in .32 Remington, which I spent a goodly amount of time getting to its present condition:

More to follow, I promise.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

San Francisco cracks down on McDonald's Happy Meals

More specifically, Happy Meals w/toys that don't meet their arbitrary nutritional requirements.

IOW, they've decided that they don't want the wrong things going into the wrong human orifices out there.

Mr. Irony, when have you ever been so unbelievably obvious?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Breakfast - Something Different...

In a fit of breakfast creativity, I took two fresh chicken tamales from the local Mercado Marimar, added two eggs, a generous helping of shredded Colby Jack cheese, and threw in a sprinkling of Tabasco. Mmmm-good!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

2010 Strawberry Wine

15 pounds of fresh June strawberries makes 3 gallons of strawberry wine, ready to bottle in October! This batch took a bit of work, from the picking of the strawberries, to the mushing up and constant agitation through primary fermentation, to the straining of the yeast-digested fruit when it went into the secondary fermentation carboy. (Mushing vs. a blender, because the latter would've chopped all the tiny strawberry seeds, releasing a bitter component the wine could do without...)

I was concerned that the wine would go straw or golden in color, but it finished as a dark reddish-amber. The specific gravity started at 1.110 and wound up at 0.990 in the end, so it took a goodly amount of sweetener to bring it back to a semi-sweet bottling stage. Due to the high acid levels of fresh strawberries, I used champagne yeast, so there's a relatively high alcohol content - but it is subdued in presence by the strawberry flavor, with a very clean finish on the palate.

I'm sure this batch of 15 bottles will disappear well before I pick another 15 pounds next spring.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Drink the IBM Kool-Aid

It never fails. Some time ago, I donated one of my spare IBM Intellistation M-Pro workstations to a worthy cause in Indianapolis. When the vinyl graphics business in our garage and my wife's new work-at-home job required hardware upgrades for their M-Pro workstations, I figured it would be no big deal. Unfortunately, the Intellistation M-Pro 6850 models have become more rare over the last year or so, something I hadn't really counted on. In the meantime, cannibalizing my own 3.0Ghz IBM Intellistation M-Pro for those badly-needed parts was just the opportunity I needed to find yet another orphaned corporate lease IBM and give it a loving home.

Mission accomplished. This rescued IBM Intellistation Z-Pro 6221 is slightly smaller in width and depth than the previous Intellistation M-Pro models, but packs 2 each hyperthreaded Xeon 3.2Ghz processors (4 logical processors in the Windows Task Manager), 4Gb memory, 320Gb HD, 8Gb SSD pagefile, and Radeon HD4670 video at 1920x1080 resolution under the sheet metal.

I'm pleased to report that the little fellow below is quite happy running Windows 7 Pro at a brisk pace, with blue (appropriate color for IBM!) antifreeze gurgling through its innards!

Moving the Windows pagefile to flash/SSD drives - revisited...

It's been about a year and a half since I first started playing with moving a portion of the Microsoft Windows operating system to solid-state devices like Compact Flash cards and DOM Flash drives. My goal was twofold: to check the reliability of the solid-state drives, and to see if I could realize a boost in Windows perfomance compared to the spinning platter alternatives.

There were concerns at the time that Flash memory had a limited lifespan, and couldn't really handle repeated read/write cycles over time. I had no idea how much of a problem that would be during a long term test, but I was willing to sacrifice an Industrial CF card and Flash DOM drive to the cause, regardless.

To be honest, the Windows XP pagefile really doesn't hit things too hard. That could be attributed to the fact that I run dual hyperthreaded Xeon processors (4 logical processors in the Task Manager), and never had less than 2Gb of RAM in any of the test machines, with a total of 3.5Gb in one of them. With that much memory and parallel processing power, Windows XP Pro probably didn't need to access the pagefile as much as it could have with fewer resources available.

I said earlier I used Industrial Compact Flash - there's a reason for that. I learned that not all Compact Flash is created equally. If you want to use a Compact Flash card as a real hard drive, it has to be compatible with the IDE or SATA bus of a computer's motherboard. Using an IDE-to-CF adapter card, I discovered that some CF cards are UDMA compatible, most are not. The ONLY way to guarantee hard drive compatibility in the CF card world is to purchase Industrial Compact Flash, which is specifically designed for hard drive replacement use in embedded systems. While this guarantees they can be used as IDE hard drives, something tells me they may also be rated for heavier use in read/write cycles, too. That may be cheating with respect to my long term test, but looking for compatible CF cards via hit-or-miss purchasing didn't sound too appealing, either.

So how did they work? Pretty well, actually. Neither the CF card nor the Flash DOM module gave up the ghost, and were used every day for that year and a half. Under Windows XP Pro SP3, I was not able to format either in NTFS, but was able to use them formatted in FAT32 - so I left them in that configuration. I did not defragment them, nor did I set Windows to flush the pagefile during shutdown. I let Windows manage the pagefile size automatically, and was never in danger of running out of space on either the 4Gb CF card, or 8Gb Flash DOM module. I did use the HDDLED utility to show when the pagefiles were being accessed, and noted the greatest usage was during boot-up and when minimizing open applications. There were sporadic flashes of activity throughout a Windows session, but the majority of pagefile hits came from the instances I mentioned.

Applications like Adobe Creative Suite 3, Quark Passport, Microsoft Office 2007, and IE/Firefox browsers opened noticeably more quickly, with Adobe really standing out as a benefactor. Fragmentation of the main system hard drive sans the pagefile was also reduced, which is to be expected.

What I managed to accomplish was prevent the system hard drive from moving the read/write head all over the disk platter trying to concurrently access both a running application and the Windows pagefile. I also freed up several GB of hard drive space by moving the pagefile to the separate flash device on a different IDE channel. The system hard drive endured less fragmentation, and the pagefile took advantage of the excellent random access read characteristics inherent to solid-state devices. I can understand why both Microsoft and Intel recommend using these devices for such a purpose now.

I've since taken the concept just a wee bit further, by obtaining another IBM workstation, and outfitting it with a more recent version of the earlier flash drives, a purpose-built 8GB SSD drive built by Transcend. This was installed into an IBM Intellistation Z-Pro workstation, with 2 hyperthreaded 3.2Ghz Xeon processors, and 4Gb memory. Windows 7 Professional 32-Bit was installed, and this time, I was able to format the SSD drive using NTFS. Here's the drive box:

Here's the drive installed into the IBM's hard drive cage:

These are a bit faster in the read/write access times, per the manufacturer's data sheet. Moving the Windows 7 pagefile to the SSD was just as easy as doing so in Windows XP, and poses no real difficulty in setup. Windows 7 really likes this configuration, and that also comes as no surprise, since Windows 7 uses ReadyBoost for other solid-state media. (I tried ReadyBoost, and saw no performance increases, probably because of the 4Gb memory) This configuration is only about 5 months old, so I will keep an eye on it over time to see how well it holds up over time.

In the meantime, if you can find CF cards, Flash DOM modules, or smaller SSD drives at a good price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this technique. As SSD technology improves, I can hardly wait to see what the future holds in store!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poe - Hello (The Good Version)

This jammed when it first came out, and now that I've found it on YouTube, y'all can jam, too!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

As promised, vintage iron.

I told Roberta I'd take pics of our local Gathering of Leviathans. And so it came to pass that my father and nephew accompanied your's truly to the Badger Steam & Gas Show, 2010. Taking center stage was Wendell Kelch's beautifully restored 1917 IHC (International Harvester) Titan 30-60. Two cylinders, 9 3/4" bores, 14" strokes, 30 drawbar HP, 60 pulley HP, 21,000 lbs of drop-dead gorgeous!

A few different angles - note the exposed valve gear at knee height in the cab:

She's a big girl:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm still staying busy.

Freshly bottled - 3 gallons of lemon wine, AKA Murphy's Irish Lemon Elixir and Liver Tonic:

Coming next? Strawberry, and Watermelon's just finished in the primary fermentor...

Good-looking bird!

Of course, I'm a wee-bit biased, having been a crew dawg on said bird, but hey...

Here's WC-135C Constant Phoenix Tail Number 62-3582, shortly after retrofit from it's previous life as an EC-135C Looking Glass platform:

Morning Commute Haiku

These come to mind every morning as I hop onto the Interstate enroute to work...

Prius blocks fast lane.
NASCAR number on hatchback?
Drive like you stole it!

Minivan swerving.
Mom flailing at kids in back.
She's on the phone, too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vintage Detroit Iron

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Baraboo today - no thunderstorms, either! Old-Fashioned Days only comes once a year, so we took advantage of it.

My absolute favorite was this SWEET 1967 Pontiac Bonneville ragtop. (Do want, sorry it ain't a BMW Z3, but oh, well!)

Then there's the 1956 Ford F-100 pickup:

This 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe was exceptionally choice:

Anybody for a 1951 Dodge Flathead 6 Power Wagon (Military warning stickers still on the dash)?

Another Mopar, in the form of a Dodge Charger:

No classic car show would be complete without a 1967 Camaro SS.

Who wouldn't like a clean Ragtop Oldsmobile 442?

Love the lines on this 1955 Bel-Air 2-Door Hardtop:

And in a concession to Wolfsburg, a nicely-redone 6-volt Swingaxle Bug:

That's definitely a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon, IMHO...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Noodler's "Dark Matter" Review

Unless one's been hiding beneath a rock for the last decade or so, there's been a very popular brand of fountain pen ink called "Noodler's" - named for those crazy folks who think they can reach underwater into a riverbank hole and pull out a catfish vs. losing fingers to snapping turtles. Hell of a sport, that!

I've been playing with fountain pens since grade school, and started out with cartridge-loaded Sheaffers, then graduated to the Parker 51 series, etc. I pretty much forgot about fountain pens over the intervening couple of decades until just recently, when I found myself writing multi-page (last one was 15!) reports longhand and just burning through pen refills like there was no tomorrow.

My old Sheaffers and Parkers had long since disappeared, so on a whim, I ordered a Cross ATX medium-nib pen through AAFES, and a quantity of black cartridges. That was all well and good until I realized that Cross ink tended to feather pretty badly, and those cartridges are a bit of a pain to swap out several times a week. So I ordered a Cross converter, and went shopping for ink. As I ordered the Cross converter, my eye caught a svelte little Chinese number called a "Lanbitou 866", with a hooded nib and very slim lines. What the heck, it was a whopping $4.00, I may as well give it a shot!

I knew that refilling fountain pens via piston converters offered a couple advantages, namely quick refills and a cleaning action as the ink is drawn into the pen from the nib end. While I run the risk of getting ink everywhere when refilling from an ink bottle, it's a calculated risk that I feel is manageable.

Reading all the reviews of Noodler's Ink online, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't go wrong with any of their offerings. About the only prerequisites I had for the ink I needed was that it had to be black (medical/legal requirement), and my own personal desire was that it flow nicely without feathering too much on paper. My Cross ATX did feel "scratchy" when using Cross cartridges, so if I ended up with an ink that had lubrication properties, that would be a bonus, too.

Enter Noodler's "Dark Matter". The story as printed inside the box was that a partial bottle of WWII Los Alamos Government ink showed up at Noodler's, with a request from the owner that Noodler's duplicate it as best they could. This they did, and the subsequent offering shows J. Robert Oppenheimer himself on the label, and "Nuke" on the box end to identify this particular formulation. Having retired myself from an agency closely related to Oppenheimer's project, I just couldn't say no.

I filled both the Cross and Lanbitou, and tried the ink on both copy paper and newspaper. The results are actually pretty darned good. The Cross flowed very easily, and did indeed smooth up the feel of the nib across the paper. It feathered a bit on newspaper, but nowhere near as bad as the Cross cartridges did. The Lanbitou was crisp, and while it didn't gush ink like the Cross, it was still very easy to make nice flowing text. The ink dried relatively quickly, so I would imagine it isn't what Noodler's calls "Bulletproof".

From both pens the color was dark, I guess you could call it pitch black. While I'm sure there are darker formulations from Noodler's, I have no qualms writing through this particular bottle of "Dark Matter" in the performance of my duties and while writing everyday missives.

On the left is the copy/printer paper, on the right is newspaper. For those who like Noodler's offerings, I can very easily understand why!

Muzzle Blasts, Pt. VII

Kudos to the folks who correctly identified the subject of Muzzle Blasts Pt. VI as a Garand, better known as the U.S. Rifle Caliber .30 M1. It's pretty hard to mistake the profile of the M1 Garand, with the gas system sitting so close to the muzzle, and the gas tube right there out in front for all to see.

Here's a better view of same, doing a wonderful job of sending 168gr MatchKings into nice groups at the rifle range:

For the next unknown muzzle, I give you a rarity, although the origin should be visible when viewed in finer detail:

If we didn't take risks...

None of us would ever experience the pleasures of things like dandelion wine.

The dogs and I sat in the grass some time ago, clipping dandelions and filling ice cream buckets with the flowers that others would rather douse with a healthy dose of herbicide. Several quarts later, my fingers were stained bright yellow - the same color as the interior of my big polyurethane primary fermenter after just one week. The results, however, are simply outstanding!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The latest batch is white wine!

I just bottled 3 gallons of what I call "Wisconsin White", which was created during the tail end of last winter using Welch's White Grape Juice frozen concentrate and a Premier Cuvee' yeast. There was slightly more than 3 gallons' worth, so I ended up sampling several glasses of the "extra" after bottling was completed. Pretty darned tasty, I must say! Maybe my technique over the last 6 months or so is hitting its stride...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

My little girl turns 7 next year!

Ms. Quinn is still a stunning dog, no questions about it. Here she is, 60lbs of Chow/Spitz chasing me down at full-tilt-boogie as I try to capture her in the camera's shutter:

23" monitors, they are so nice...

I upgraded a little while ago from a 19" to a 23" monitor, a Hannspree HF237 HDTV version as sold by for a whopping $149.95 (refurbished w/warranty). I don't know how I languished so long with a 19" monitor, and a 17" monitor nowadays would drive me absolutely bonkers. 1920 x 1080 resolution will definitely light up one's office at night!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Roaring Silence...

I'd been keeping an eye on the Supreme Court's proceedings regarding McDonald vs. City of Chicago, which had the potential of either keeping the momentum of 2008's Heller decision, or just plain mucking up things royally for law-abiding U.S. gun owners.

Even though Monday's decision fell in favor of 2nd Amendment supporters by a close 5-4 count, it was good news.

Well, at least for some of us. Those crickets one hears in the background? That's the coverage afforded the McDonald decision by the major news venues, namely CNN, Fox, USA Today, etc.

Go ahead, Google it. It's been well over 24 hours, and you'll have to dig via the Washington Post or L.A. Times to merely find mention of this landmark case.

Scary, that. Makes one wonder if the "Liberal Media" moniker really holds water, don't it?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brightening up one's workday...

Thanks to a hectic schedule, I've been writing reports lately, and a lot of them, to boot. I wrote 27 pages just yesterday, as a matter of fact (Day off? What's a day off?) As anybody in the medical business knows, reports get written in black ink - period. There's no blue ink allowed, and no printouts via word processor. As a result, I'd been tearing through gel rollerball pens and refills like nobody's business, when it dawned on me that back in my prep school days I'd discovered fountain pens for report writing.

The idea had some merit, so I ordered a basic Cross ATX model, which arrived in mere days:

Until I get a converter ordered, I'll stick with the black ink cartridges, which I can buy at the local Office Depot quite easily. I'd forgotten how delightful it was to flow through a report using a fine writing instrument. Granted, I didn't buy a Montblanc, but the minimalistic Cross works nicely for my purposes, and adds a touch of class to the various other instruments on my busy desktop.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More fun with fruit!

We picked 16lbs of strawberries today. There's a family organic farm maybe 5 miles from my house, and if you pick them yourself, they're a whopping $1.50 per pound. The picking season is all of about 2 weeks, so we boogied over there...

The couple pounds above are set aside for cereal, ice cream and shortcake. The rest of the batch have already met their fate. They're cleaned, mushed up, and on their way to becoming 3 gallons of strawberry wine, see below.

That's 3 gallons of strawberry wine just starting life on the left, 3 gallons of dandelion wine settling out in the middle, and 3 gallons of lemon wine still bubbling away in the primary bucket on the right. The 2010 wine season is well underway!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

For the fellow on "Top Shot" who couldn't hit the 50 yard target...

Guys, this is a Springfield M1903A1. It's pretty much the same rifle as the M1903 used on "Top Shot", save for the C-type pistol grip stock, which Uncle Sam in 1928 considered superior to the straight grip stock of the M1903. Many M1903 rifles were actually converted to M1903A1 configuration as they were rebuilt at government arsenals between the wars.

The stock ain't the problem, though. The rear sight, however, is. Lemmee 'splain, okay? M1903, M1903Mk1, M1903A1, and M1903 (Modified) rifles all had the windage-adjustable rear ladder sights that were zeroed for 547 yards, aka 500 meters, when the ladder was down to expose the V-notch. Back in the day, almost all the infantry-length (and even shorter variant) rifles of standing armies had super-long battle zeroes, be they Springfields, Swedish Mausers, Schmidt-Rubins, 98 Mausers, Lee-Enfields, you name it. I won't get into the semantics, but it was part and parcel of military tactical thinking back then to engage at distances somewhere between 300 meters and "volley" range. Some rifles even had separate volley sights mounted on the side, my NoIMkIII SMLE being one prime example.

Now, this is just an observation from watching "Top Shot" the other day - you were probably fighting that 547 yard battle zero. If you were using surplus M2 Ball ammo like I think you were, that means your point of impact would be 7.3 inches HIGH at 50 yards. In other words, you'd have to hold under 7.3 inches to centerpunch the 50 yard bullseye. Going out to 100 yards, it gets even more fun, with nearly 14 inches of hold under required to centerpunch the target at that range.

Doughboys knew that. My fellow Camp Perry shooters knew that. Many of us "cheated" and used the 1903's bottom peep aperture found in the ladder when flipped up to the vertical. The bottom peep is zeroed for 100 yards, which makes things a heck of a lot easier than using the 547 yard V-notch. Just sayin'...

Of course, were it up to me, I'd have used the 2.25x power scope as issued on my M1903A4 Remington sniper, itself based on the peep-sighted M1903A3 Remington (Springfield) rifle, but that's just me.

Monday, June 07, 2010

I love vintage airplanes!

Take a look at this completely restored 1950s-vintage USAF T-34A trainer, courtesy of yesterday's Reedsburg Fly-In/Drive-In Rotary Club Breakfast. The owner upgraded the powerplant, hence the 3-bladed paddle up front. My dad's getting ready to see if the keys are still in it...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

When the tornado sirens go off...

I stick my nose outside to see what the all the commotion is about. I mean, isn't that what everybody else does, too?

Turns out, the sirens weren't blowing just for the hell of it.

From my patio door, Woohoo!:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Home network simplicity...

Nothing is ever easy around my house. Note the empty area next to the living room - that's the bathroom, another area for potential expansion!

Muzzle Blasts, Pt. VI

It's been a while since I did Muzzle Blasts, especially because I recently spent a week's worth of vacation in Southern California, amongst other things. Regardless, those who guessed "Swedish Mauser" for Muzzle Blasts V were correct. Here's the 1908 Carl Gustav M96 Swedish Mauser in its entirety, second from the bottom:

Note that the previous Muzzle Blasts specimens are racked and stacked in tight formation with the venerable Swede!

Our next specimen should be fairly easy for folks to identify:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Windows 7 initial impressions...

After about a week of Windows 7 Professional (32-bit), I can safely say it will remain installed on one of my removable hard drive cassettes. So far, all of my apps and utilities that were running under Windows XP Pro are also running just fine under Win7 Pro. Adobe CS3 Master Collection, MS Office 2007, Quark Express Passport, they're all good. That had been a major concern of mine, seeing how the horror stories of Windows Vista made me loathe to move to that operating system, let alone the follow-on.

The install itself was considerably quicker than even XP Pro, and save for the Radeon HD4670 video and Canon LiDE scanner drivers, everything was discovered and configured correctly. That included my Hauppage TV/FM tuner card. Win7 Pro immediately started up the Windows Media Center setup and requested ZIP Code info, at which point it figured out my local cable provider. Then it downloaded the TV listings, and within minutes I was watching TV on the 23" monitor. Pretty neat!

I find Win7 Pro to be a glossier package than Win XP Pro, and although I've throttled back some of the animation and glitz, I've left Aero alone for now. I'm bummed that Win7 Pro will only use 3.25Gb of the 3.5Gb memory inside my IBM, but that's about par for the course, especially since the video card is a 1Gb resource hog to begin with.

Programs seem to run just as fast as, if not a little quicker than, they did under Win XP Pro. Games like Wolfenstein 2009 and BioShock scoot along very well, so if there are additional overhead requirements for Win7 with respect to hardware and code, I'm not seeing it. I do notice that at idle the Windows Task Manager Performance view shows between 800Mb and 1.0Gb memory being used, so the operating system does require more of that resource.

All in all, my trepidations have been diminished. My legacy hardware runs just fine under the latest iteration of Windows, and although I'll keep the XP Pro hard drive cassette running every now and then, I'll be ready when Microsoft drops support for the latter.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Dandelion Wine!

6 quarts of freshly-picked dandelions have become the start of 3 gallons of dandelion wine. This should be interesting...

I'm starting to convince myself that if it ain't nailed down, ferment it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Muzzle Blasts, Pt. V

The mystery muzzle in Muzzle Blasts Pt. IV was a bit out of the ordinary. Many folks have seen or even own a K-31 Schmidt-Rubin, and they've become quite popular over the last decade as they arrived on the Cruffler scene at very reasonable prices. Less common, however, are the rifles that preceded the popular K-31 straight-pull Swiss rifle. The rifle in Muzzle Blasts Pt. IV is one of those, namely, an Infanterie-Gewehr Model 1911 Rifle, full-length (and boy do I mean FULL-LENGTH):

As long as the rifle is, it actually handles quite well offhand. The straight-pull bolt cycles like greased lightning, although I hope never to need strong extraction camming to remove a stubborn fired round. This particular S-R 1911 dates to 1913 by virtue of its 352xxx serial number, with a Pensioner's "P" mark stamped on the receiver. The muzzle protector is original to the rifle, which is neat - but looking at the 45-degree crown, I understand why the Swiss felt the need for such protection. There was no paperwork under the buttplate, which was one of the first things I looked for upon obtaining the rifle. Bummer, but the gorgeous metalwork and French Walnut make up for the lack of trinkets from the previous owner. Well, that and how much fun it is to shoot on range day!

For the next Name That Muzzle, I give you the Schmidt-Rubin's stablemate in the Gewehr98 collection of boomsticks:

I've taken the liberty to leave a little accessory attached to the muzzle to perhaps assist readers in identifying said rifle...