Monday, January 31, 2011

Yuengling Lager in Wisconsin!

In their infinite wisdom (ala' Coors back in the day) Yuengling Breweries won't distribute their stuff to points west of the Eastern Seaboard. That's too bad, because some of us Damn Yankees who spent lots of time south of the Mason-Dixon line have a real hankering for Yuengling, shucked oysters, pulled pork sammiches, and decent buffalo wings.

I didn't fix the problem, but rather treated the symptoms. I ordered a case of Yuengling online from and by Gawd they shipped it! They were even good enough to wait for the weather to go above zero degrees Fondly Fahrenheit so that the bottles wouldn't burst in transit.

So as I sit here awaiting the 20 inches of snow they're predicting by Wednesday AM, there's a crock pot of chili simmering, and many bottles of Yuengling chilling on the back deck in a positive application of fluffy frozen raindrops.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

They Trademarked "Tactical"!

I kid you not. Usually, if you paint something black and attach rails to it, you get a cart-blanche excuse to call it "tactical". I've seen tactical flashlights w/scalloped bezels, tactical letter openers, tactical coffee mugs (Thanks, Oleg!), and damned near everything else labeled with that particular adjective.

I'd resigned myself to the fact that the term "tactical" is pretty much a marketing ploy and nothing else, but I was floored today when I received my Cabela's sale flyer. There it was - Federal American Eagle TACTICAL ammo, with the nice Registered Trademark right behind "tactical". Yup. The summonabenches trademarked it.

That worries me now. Will Federal/American Eagle go after the makers of my tactical toilet tissue? How about the Tactical Air Command patch memento in my shadow box? What if something just plain looks tactical, like the knives made by my late knife and gunsmith? That Caspian Officer's ACP of mine? Yeah, it's probably tactical, too. Well, it could be strategic, I suppose, but that's not a sales buzzword...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Noodler's "Dark Matter" & Lamy Safari

I know I reviewed Noodler's "Dark Matter" with both a Cross ATX and Lanbitou 866 fountain pen earlier on this blog, but I've since found another combination that works exceptionally well.

Lamy makes a mostly-plastic fountain pen called the Safari, and while it isn't the most classical looking thing, the fit, form and function are top notch. I purchased my fine nib Safari, plus converter, on over the holidays thanks to a sale offer that found its way to my email. The price was right, and my bottle of Dark Matter was still pretty full, so what the heck?

My first impression upon arrival was that the pen was really light. So light, in fact, that I don't like writing with it unless it's posted - otherwise the balance is way off. My next impression was that the converter reservoir was very generous in capacity. It holds a lot of ink, much more so than my Cross. That's a Good Thing when I'm writing 20+ page engineering reports longhand, so Lamy gets bonus points from me right there. Having a couple clear windows in the barrel to view the ink levels doesn't hurt, either.

The fine steel nib has a dark oxide finish that complements the charcoal color of the barrel and cap. There aren't a lot of frills or flourishes on this pen, and the most "artsy" part of the Safari is probably the wire pocket clip. That's not a real problem for a daily-use pen, and the ergonomics of the Safari design more than make up for any lacking aesthetics. The triangular barrel section that interfaces with the writer's fingers and thumb are perfectly shaped, and the nib fairly glides over the paper with nary a thought. The scratchiness of the Lanbitou 866 and occasional edge grab of the Cross ATX are long things of the past with the Lamy Safari pen.

I have noticed that Noodler's "Dark Matter" is very flowy in this pen, while still being smooth and very dark in color. Not quite gushing ink, mind you, but one has to wait just a few seconds to allow the ink to dry before stacking other documents on the just-written page, but it's actually quicker to dry than our company-provided UniBall Gel pens. The latter smear quite horribly in comparison to the Safari/Dark Matter combination.

I'm inclined to believe the light weight and ergonomics of the Safari combine to make this an enjoyable pen, reducing fatigue when writing for extended periods. From my own, somewhat limited experience with fountain pens, this makes for a great value when one's writing so much that refillable fountain pens eclipse the practice of buying ballpoint refills. Kudos to Lamy for their Safari pen, and kudos to Noodler's for their Dark Matter ink!

Nikon Cameras -They Breed!

At last count, there were 3 Nikons and one Canon in the house. I used the Canon PowerShot S50 to take pics of the 2 Nikon CoolPix 5700s and CoolPix 8700 during a rare moment when all 4 cameras were having their CF cards backed up to the server. I've been wanting to go the DSLR route, but the Nikon photos are so nice, and the little Canon is so handy...

Chances are, if you see photos uploaded across the web by your's truly, they were taken with one of these cameras!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Western Electric Red Alert Phone

This is my Western Electric 502 phone, a former alert phone from a USAF installation. I had it re-wired for the standard modular phone jack, and it's tied into the house Vonage phone system. Unfortunately, the ringer will wake the dead, even at its quietest settings. When that happens, one of the dogs starts howling, and the other dog starts looking for me to make it stop.

So in the interest of domestic tranquility, I wrapped duct tape around the electromagnet's clapper. Now it just buzzes when an incoming call rings in. The little white AT&T box behind it and to the right? That's an inline touch tone dialer, with 4 programmable speed-dial buttons in front, and a full keypad hidden under the flip-top cover. It's pretty handy to have if you want to make outbound calls on a receive-only handset, otherwise I'd have to rely on my old Radio Shack pocket tone dialer pressed against the mouthpiece...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

I've always wanted a weather station...

Lo and behold, Santa Claus delivered a LaCrosse WS1510U-IT weather station this Christmas, thanks to a little bird who told him I'd wanted something along those lines. On New Year's Eve Day the weather warmed up to 49 degrees, melting the snow and making the installation task much more tolerable.

I knew the biggest problem with any weather station installation in my residence was going to be having the wind vane and anemometer seeing winds that would otherwise be masked by the height of the house. Were I to place the system further out in my back yard, I'd probably exceed the 300 foot range of the remote transmitters to the base unit. What to do?

My deck on the south side of the house is already 6' up off the ground, so that gave me an idea. I bought 2 each 10' sections of 1 3/8" galvanized steel chain link fence tubing, and a half-dozen clamp brackets to anchor things securely. My intent was to make a 20' instrument pole, and secure it to the 6' high deck for a total of 26' instrument height. That should allow the wind vane and anemometer to see winds coming over the house from the north, but if I didn't anchor things really well, I'd also have something that would dance nicely in heavier winds if it didn't plain fall over.

I used 5 of the clamp brackets to secure the instrument mast to the deck and upper railing. I'd considered drilling both a clamp and the mast to use a sheet metal screw for rotational stability, but I can't twist the mast now with 5 clamps holding it, regardless. I'm going to leave that portion alone for now, because I plan on taking the rig down later this summer for modifications.

Here's the mast as attached to the deck:

The thermometer/hygrometer/transmitter is visible attached to the deck support. The wind data wire coming from inside the mast attaches to the unit, so that it can transmit everything but the rainfall amounts - which are handled by a separate tipping-bucket rain gauge mounted elsewhere. I placed the thermometer/hygrometer/transmitter under the deck, to protect it from rainfall and also keep the summer sun from exaggerating temperatures via direct heating.

The upper portion of the mast mounts were attached to the deck railing, along with the aforementioned rain gauge. The rain gauge is mounted on standoffs to allow the measured rainfall to dump directly to the ground below. Looking up, one can see how it sits:

That's a makeshift plywood dog gate at the top of the outside deck stairs, until I come up with something a bit more substantial. The two 10' mast sections fit together via a 4" end section that's swaged down to about 1" in diameter. It made for a tight fit, but I added extra insurance in the form of a few sheet metal screws installed through the overlapping pipe sections. They're just barely visible near the joint in this view of the mast looking up towards the instruments:

As it looks from a normal vantage point on the deck, the rain gauge sitting nearby:

If you take your camera and point it up towards the instruments, then hit the zoom, you can see them way up there:

The top portion of the mast looks unfinished to me, even with the wind vane swinging and anemometer spinning away. So later this coming summer I will take everything down and install a 12-volt high brightness automotive red LED taillight bulb as a mast cap, illuminating the wind vane and acting as a beacon of sorts. This will serve as a visual reference in late evenings when the wind gusts are heavy during thunderstorm season, and also act as a landmark to see my house from the highway at night.

Once the three sets of batteries were installed, it was time to see what the weather station reported. I fired up to synchronize my barometer readings and compare the displayed data with that of other local public and private weather stations, and was pleased to see it matched theirs almost exactly! Now that's what I'm talking about!