Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ventalating Paper Zombies - the RRRMC

So, the RRRMC is finally open - that mouthful of an acronym stands for Red River Regional Marksmanship Center. Fifteen lanes of indoor, automatic target returning goodness.... complete with zombie targets.

While I don't have a picture of my target (as I don't have a proper camera) my zombie is well and truely full of holes. I won't pretend I shot nice tight groups, because I didn't - I don't get to the range enough for that(yet...might get to now) but I was definately almost completely minute of zombie, with 90% of shots falling in the upper chest and head/brain area oh the paper.

Lots, and lots of fun.

The range handles all pistol caliber centerfire up to 2.30 inches long (wierd, but ok) and 22 rim fire. I think I'm going to have to get a nice little 22 rifle for some cheap plinking in between gluts of .45 zombie death :)

-Jon

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins. A few thoughs...

I know if I have any regular readers, they've already probably heard my thoughts about this game published by EA (ew) and developed by Bioware (yay). But hey...

I'll stick them here for posterity.

This game rocks. If you enjoyed any Baulders Gate, or KOTOR, or Neverwinter Nights... go do yourself a favor and buy the game. Struggle through the crappy EA content system, and play.

It is an excellent piece of gameplay. I haven't finished the game yet, but I'm chugging through and enjoying every aspect. And its not short. This is a plus and a minus as I'm no longer a kid with endless amounts of time. But at the same time, I feel like my money was well spent.

The voice acting is for the most part, top notch. The choices frequently offer no 'good' option, just a "pick the least bad option" which is interesting to play out, and is certainly up to interpretation.

If you're up on World History, you'll probably notice that a lot of the Dragon Age world has some very interesting parallels to real history. In that they've taken a lot of the base ideas to certain pieces of history and twisted them into the game. In a lot of cases this might be a 'bad' thing. But at least I feel that its done well, and I really enjoy it.

So go enjoy! Thats an order :D

-Jon

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wait... its November already?

So, lots has happened since my last post.

I've been to Mordor and back twice (I think, I lose count). Wandered down south to Louisiana for a store install. Got to turn in my company credit card, and spent a comfortable month at home while we figured out how I was supposed to pay for all my travel if we no longer had a company credit card program (no, I didn't get it revoked for personal spending, they just canceled the whole program. Thanks Obama, I really love this economy)

Just spent lots of someone elses money in my account to travel back to Chi-town next week. Get to spend two weeks to make up for my week lost last month. Maybe I'll finally get around to taking in U-505 like Tam did.

Fargo is finally getting an indoor shooting range. The RRRMC (Red River Recrecational Marksmanship Center) should open in November. Joy! They're supposed to handle all pistol calibers and light rifle. (What light rifle means, is still up in the air - I'm hoping at least .223) I'm already signing up for my yearly membership.

Rifle is one payment from mine. December should be the month. But we'll see.

What else... I've watched the Bison lose most of the season, while the Bronco's won for most of the season so far. I guess I can take that.

I've pondered and then changed my mind about an imminent change of occupation. It probably would have been good - but I waffled a bit... and came away deciding I didn't want a friend as a boss.

Really not a bad thought that.

Otherwise, things keep chugging along.

And I best get back to it.

-Jon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rambles from the Road

So I'm hanging out in Mordor in one of the Client's Labs. I spent a good chunk of last night supervising a store install just down the street a piece and that went relatively well, but I had a little trouble winding down, and after that when I woke up to head into the office today, if felt like I had a five alarm hangover. Probably lack of caffiene, but really - if I'm going to suffer like this, I'd rather have *earned* it.

Been a decent week overall. Got a good amount of work done so far, learned a few things, and almost got a ream or two of paperwork for my painfully dense expense reporting proceedures done.

Next week I should be home in Fargo, but instead I'm heading down to Louisiana to supervise another store install of the alpha software test we're in the middle of. Small town in the deep south not too far from the Gulf... Should be interesting. Its too bad I won't have time to poke around a little more, since I haven't been south of the Mason Dixon in at least five years - but work is work - and last minute travel is *fraggin* expensive.

At least its not my money.

So I fly home Friday, have three days to rotate, and fly out again on Tuesday tenative return date of late Thursday, if all goes well.

Somewhere in the next two or three weeks I gotta find some time to burn through a chunk of the ammunition I've been collecting. Found another fairly priced 250 brick of .45 recently so I've got a nice buffer. Couple hundred rounds down range sounds like excellent therapy right now.

Speaking of firearms, last night I was flipping channels at the hotel, since I don't have a TV input a home (I stream TV I want to watch from my PC, but not very much of it) and ran across TMZ. For those of you who aren't familar, TMZ is a short 30 minute celebrity news segment. Not exactly my cup of tea, but they were talking about Buris's 2 year conviction for carrying a firearm into a nightclub, and then shooting himself in the leg with it.

I don't really have an opinion of the conviction itself, but TMZ's commentary made me want to put my fist through the wall. Things like "Well, he was carrying it where he shouldn't have been, it was a semi-automatic, not just a 'handgun' and it went off. It could have hurt someone beyond himself!"

I really don't need to lecture to the choir here about the pure stupidity of comments like this, but I'll do it anyway, because its cathartic. First off, Burris was carrying concealed without a permit, which while I'm not a huge fan of permits - its the law, and he broke it. Two, Firearms do not *just go off*. Guarenteed, he was fucking around with his firearm, which wasn't in a proper holster, had shitty trigger disipline and while drawing, or adjusting or whatever the hell he was doing, pulled the trigger. The result of such poor disipline is pretty much what he deserved. Am I glad no one else got hurt? Yes, but its idiots like that who give idiots in the media all the more ammunition to throw at the responsible gun crowd.

And it torques me off. There's a .45 caliber, semi-automatic handgun that spends its evenings 4 feet from my bedside, comfortably snugged in a holster, with a loaded mag and one in the chamber, and a spare mag at hand. Why? Because I own it, and if in the very *off* chance I might need it to defend myself - its no good to me sitting over the kitchen cabinet. The only time it goes back in its firearms case, is when I leave the house. Why? Because people not me have keys to my house to check up on things for me, and at least once, I've come back to find my firearm has been handled - and that leaves me a little uneasy.

However - in all of that - it has never once just 'gone off.' Nor, will it ever, unless I put my finger on the trigger and exert about 4 pounds of pressure.

It really is that simple.

And now I'm done preaching. I promise!

-Jon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Still here.

I haven't written in a while, mainly because I haven't found the urge, or something that just made me sit up and say "hey, I should blog about that!"

Still going to Mordor every 4th week. It still sucks. How anyone can willingly live in that city is beyond me. (and yes, I have some friends in the area. But oy. Long term living there would annoy me.) I guess I'm too used to my 'small town city' Also, the Bears can keep Cutler. Really. Enjoy.

I broke down and upgraded my PC this week. Mobo, processor, more RAM, a new HDD... and Vista. Vista was bought because I found it for a hundred bucks with a free Windows 7 upgrade.

I really only want the Windows 7... but hey. A hundred bucks? For what feasably might be two OSs with seperate product keys? Yes please.

Politics still suck. Tea Party's rock. Hope and Change? No thanks.

My truck still runs. There's (some) money in the bank. There's a rifle almost 60% paid for down town, and I'm still employed. Guess I shouldn't complain too loud.

Else, I'm afraid I haven't got much to say.

-Jon

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Gunstore rambles.

Ok. I blame this post on Tam and her quite excellent (as were the comments) rant on gun safety today.

It sorta keyed off something in my head, I'd noticed, and it had been bugged by yesterday. As my previous post pointed out, I'd been wandering gun stores, which is a fun passtime. However, what I didn't mention was Scheeles was busy as all get out. Lots of folks were looking at lots of guns. Mostly shotguns, probably getting ready for various fowl seasons around here.

There were also a lot of kids with their dads picking out what sounded like their first shotguns. *Very Cool*

However, there was a lot of piss poor muzzle discipline going on. My father taught me a very long time ago to avoid at all costs sweeping someone with a muzzzle. If you aren't willing to put holes in it, don't point the dang gun that way. More then once I had to kindly push a muzzle away from my person, or back up, too keep from being swept.

Now, admittedly, when you're handling a rifle or a shotgun at a gun store, you want to feel the fit of the weapon, and I understand this - I do it too. (Its also the one time I break the 'don't point it at god' rule one of Tam's commenters mention' - because a vertical sweep of a back wall, followed by a fit check and quick peep through the sights at the ceiling is about the safest way to get a feel for that new purchase..

But I go out of my way to avoid a barrel sweep, and I sure do wish more people would. I know the firearms at a gun store are *supposed* to be unloaded.

But supposed to be isn't the same as ARE.

Just my two cents.

-Jon

Saturday, August 1, 2009

MHI books rescued, rifle added to future collection.

Having just returned from yet another trip to the land of Mordor, or Chicagoland for work, relatively flush with cash, I ran around paying bills and the like, and when I was done, realized there were money laying around for fun.

So I went to Scheeles to see what they had for rifles. I wanted something on the cheap, that shot something relatively cheap, but with a large enough caliber it could double as a PDW. I was leaning towards an 1894 pattern lever gun not unlike the puma I had used out at B's a few weeks before, chambered for 357 magnum

As it happened, I could get a real 1894 Winchester, built in 1911 for a measly 1100 quid. Nice price, for the gun. Out of my range, I was topping out at about 700, for insta purchase.

So, I passed, the only other leverguns they had were 30-30s or 45LC. Probably just as fun to shoot, but not particularly cheap. Poked around their ammunition selection and couldn't find a single round of .45 ACP. Rather annoying. So I left, nd headed to retailer 2, Gander Mountain. Not my favorite stop, but it was next on the list. Struck out there, and wandered over to what used to be Sportsman's Warehouse. Struck out a third time, all around.

Now I was getting annoyed, so I stopped by B&N and picked up a proper copy of MHI. I'll have to write a little book reviewlet later, as I've already read it by web-subscription and love it - but it was good to get my hands on a copy. Which was more work then I realized, because I couldn't find it on the shelves anywhere. When I asked a sales associate, they couldn't find it either, and finally went in the back and found it still boxed up.

Hard to sell, if its not on the floor. Hopefully Larry gets a few more sales from Fargo now. While its not the most amazingest book I've ever read, if you're even vaguely interested in firearms, like good action sequences, and enjoy Monsters who are not just 'troubled' but truely evil and horrificthings... you *WILL* enjoy this book. It just satisfies something in the soul.

After my book buying I grabbed lunch with B and then wandered over to the final gunstore on my list. I'd never actually been to the outdoorsman.... and I think I've found my gun shop in town. They're small, they're selection isn't the best - but the service is good... and they're layaway plan was nice and simple.

I went in looking to spend 5 to 7 bills and ended up putting one of my 'I will own one, someday' firearms on layway. There's a nice 16 inch Colt M4 pattern, LEO marked AR-15 with my name on it, 1/3rd of the way paid off. As a bonus, since I'm a lefty, the owner is throwing in an ambi-saftey swap, for free. Which is good because I'm willing to deal with a backwards mag release - which is easy enough to hit with my off hand, but having to shift my grip on the rifle to activate the safety is not on my list of things I'm interested in :). And, as it happens, he also had some .45 ACP laying around. Price was a little high, but I bought fifty rounds anyway.

All in all, not a bad day.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Care and Feeding of a Springfield Armoury XD .45

Since I recently returned from my most recent trip to Chicagoland, or as Tam would call it... Mordor, and having found another 250 rounds of .45 ACP at one of the local sporting goods stores shortly before leaving, I was jonesing for the entire month to finally get out and put some rounds through my XD.

As has been previously mentioned in my not overly prevalent blogging, I'm a bit of a gun enthusiast, and certainly have enjoyed shooting all my life, mostly via bb, pelt and the old .22 longrifle cartridge. All of that though, has been done with rifles. When the great Obama scare hit the nation, I finally had found the last bit of excuse I needed to do something I'd always wanted to do. I bought a handgun.

I didn't get to put a LOT of rounds through the pistol after buying it, seeing as it was early november, and North Dakota is COLD in the winter. I for one am all for going out and shooting in the cold, it really doesn't bother me - but my range options are fairly limited, and the one outdoor range nearby is also fairly poor.

However, in the past Nine months I've managed to put almost a thousand rounds through the gun now, and while thats not particularly impressive, and not nearly as many as I would *LIKE* it has given me a very solid feel for this particular pistol, and after its most recent outing, and its follow up cleaning, I have some thoughts I'd like to share.

Someone might even find them useful.

The following things are worth noting before I begin. I am in no way, A: A professional shooter. B: In anyway an expert on the subject of handguns or firearms, and C: Getting paid for this in anyway.

The following are my opinions, and nothing more.

I am unabashedly a lover of the 1911 first, and the .45 ACP cartidge second. The love for these two is based not originally from the stopping power of the mighty .45, or the amazing functionality of John Brownings perhaps titular pistol... but instead because thats what all the good guys, in those WWII movies I watched as a kid carried. The 1911 symbolized for me all the things that were *GOOD* about the 'ol US of A and such. It certainly doesn't hurt that the 1911 frame has excellent lines, and being who I am, a boy turned man who is rather stubborn and stuck in his ways I figured when I got around to it, this would be my first pistol.

Obviously I was mistaken. My budget for a gun wasn't very large. And to be honest, just buying the XD, broke it. But none of the local 1911s were even in the ballpark.

So I did something I never thought I'd do, I bought a 'plastic pistol'.

And you know what? While the 1911 will always be my first love, and someday, hopefully soon, I'll own a couple examples of that fine gun - I *am* glad I bought the XD.

Its a damn fine pistol.

I'd like to tell you, I did my research. I poked and prodded and thought really hard about my pistol choices.

Thats just not the case. I had three close associates (two friends and a cousin) all buy pistols around me in the span of a week. Though, admittedly I only knew about one of them had at the time. One day after some cajoling, T and I headed for Scheeles to 'look' at a pistol. He had already bought his. And I'd looked at it, thought it was a fine gun, and put it out of my mind.

I knew the chances I was walking out of Scheeles without a gun in hand were slim. The part of me that wanted to be budget minded was for that conclusion, but it just wasn't going to be. I looked for a while, and found myself pulled towards the XDs. They were on sale, and while I could pick up one of those fine 1911s that I lusted for for anywhere from 600 up, there was an XD sitting there prestinely in its case with all the features I wanted. Ambi-Safety, Five inch barrel, caliber - .45. It also included 2 mags, a poly dual mag pouch, a poly holster (which was righthanded, and useless, though I didn't know it at the time) a 'speed loader' and a bore brush.

Not a bad little kit at all, and it all rang in at just over four franklins. I walked out of Scheeles with 250 rounds of FMJ .45, and Springfield XD for 550 bucks. And I was a happy camper.

The XD as a platform is extremely modular in nature. There are five primary pieces, and if you've ever stripped down a 'plastic pistol' you'll be familar with them. You have the Slide, Barrel/Block, Pistol Grip/Trigger assembly, Spring, and Magazine.

Now, my XD has an optional ambedextrious safety, but I'm fairly sure, if it didn't, I could slide the five inch slide, barrel and spring assembled onto my buddies pistol grip/triggler assembly from his 4 inch XD .45 and they'd mate right up. Its and interesting little tidbit we noticed a while back. We've never been able to verify it, but it is rather interesting.

The biggest plus, at least in my book when I stripped the pistol the first time is that the spring and guide assembly was all steel. Instead of a plastic/spring assembly like T's 4 inch - they used a much larger spring, and ran a simple guide tube down the center. That means the only plastic on my gun, is in the pistol grip and trigger assembly, and honestly, I'm rather more comfortable with that.

The chances of one of the plastic pieces failing is nil, I know. But as mentioned above, I'm stubborn, and metal trumphs plastic.

After a thousand rounds I've cleaned the gun about 5 times, while it might not always need it, I like a clean gun. And the XD is a breeze to break down into its components, clean, oil and reassemble, so I don't really have an excuse *not* to do it. I have found the wear points seem to be mostly around the breach block, since there is little more then friction shoving the block out of the way as the slide cycles oiling this area is important.

Overall I've gravitated towards a Gun Grease from Remmington that comes in a little tube like syringe. Regualar gun oil works fine, but I find the grease is easier to apply, and tends to stay where I put it. (Particualarly the slide rails, and the breach block.)

If you've never cleaned a gun before, most of the gunnies on my blogroll have posted a show and tell about it. Their insights are handy. Grab you owners manual, get comfortable with the breakdown proceedure. Read through some of their examples, or get someone to show you the basics, just because your XD or Glock or whatever keeps feeding rounds just fine and is designed to hardly need to be cleaned doesn't mean you *shouldn't*.

Maintain something and it'll last longer.

I've experienced only 2 malfunctions in a thousand rounds that I remember. One was a bad primer, the other was a stovepipe malfunction that I pretty much caused myself.

Anyway, now that I've blathered about the basics of breakdown and cleaning, lets talk about the fun stuff.

Shooting.

As mentioned before, I am not a professional shooter. I'm a pretty good eye with a rifle, but that doesn't take a whole lot of work. Rifles as a whole are not particularly hard to shoot with reasonable accuracy.

I am however, not what I would call a precision pistol shooter. I've been working on that though, and I've gone from having a pretty horrible sympathetic flinch against the recoil (forcing the barrel down a hairsbreath before firing to 'compensate' for recoil) to one that generally puts his rounds in the area he wants them to go.

At the very least, from five to twenty five feet, I'm always within 'minute of person' as we like to call it. No matter who that badguy was the big white target was standing in for, when I'm done at the range for the day - he's had a very bad day.

And its not like the XD is at fault at all... In the hands of more capable shooters, I've seen some pretty impressive groups. And in all honesty, when I'm having a good day, I can put fifty rounds through a 3 to 4 inch hole so So the poor marksmanship, when it happens is all shooter. The XD may not be a precision instrument, but its certainly a good firing pistol that goes bang when you want it to with decent three dot iron sights.

There are some downsides to the XD of course - the standard 4 and 5 inch variants of the .45 feature a nice beefy doublestacked magazine which feeds a nice 12+1 rounds. However, this also means that it is not a SLIM pistol, and is most definately not in the range of something I would consider concealable, nor is it easy for smaller hands to hold properly. Its a rather large pistol, and with a full mag, rather heavy.

However, if you're looking for a weighty sidearm, that's simple, decently priced, and has a nice warrenty cycle - one could do worse then look at Springfield and thier XDs.

Now that I've gotten a much stronger handle on my shooting, I'd like to try out some light competition, either plates or even bowling pins (though plates sound more my thing) sound like fun. I've been keeping my ear to the ground for stuff like that around here, but its not easy to find.

May have to end up just setting up my own courses, and doing it the old fashioned way for a while.

In anycase, I think I've blathered for long enough on the subject of the XD and shooting. Though, if anyone knows a good range within 3 hours of south Chicagoland,I'd be much oblidged. Sounds like I get to go back soon, and while I won't be taking my own arms with me, it'd still be nice to get out and burn some rounds to relax.

-Jon

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wagons EAST! Again...

So, it looks like I'll be heading out to Chicagoland on Sunday... for an indeterminate amount of time. I'm contracted to work in the capacity requested for around 4 months this time... with anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of it being out of Chicago.

And I still haven't gotten to the range this summer. Suck. If I wasn't so leery about Chicago area gun laws, I'd bring my pistol along and find a range. As it stands, I'm tempted, if I find out my current stay will be longer then the week to wander down Indiana way for a weekend and see if I can't find a range that will rent me a firearm or two.

We'll see.

I'll get a shiny not quite new laptop out of the deal for the better part of a year though. Yay?

More from Chi-town once I hit dirt.

-Jon

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Great Bullet Hunt, and other Sundries

So its been a while.

I've transitioned to working days, which is a whole different kind of kick in the pants. I work harder, for less pay, but overall I think its been a good change. I've ended up having to give up things I used to do in favor of new things I do.

Overall thats been good. I didn't get shooting this winter nearly as much as I wanted to, but now that the weather's been clearing up, I'm hankering to put some rounds down range. I've been aquiring scrap lumber all winter to put together a set of clean targets, and I've got about 150 or so rounds in reserve. But if I start doing some serious shooting, like I want to, I'm going to need more.

To that end, yesterday we kicked off the great bullet hunt, while eyeballing some new purchase ideas. There are officially no .45 ACP bullets in any store in Fargo Moorhead as of 6 PM sunday, for any price. Most common calibers are out of stock, and what IS there is overpriced, but a bullet in the Mag is worth far more then one you can't buy.

Having kept up with the blogsphere on this issue, I was not overly surprised. But what *did* surprise me is that reloading supplies were short as well. I wasn't aware that Fargo had a huge reloading population.

Guess I was wrong. I've been debating getting into reloading, and if I could find a good place to shoot once a week, I know I would. The problem is its an hour drive (at least) to the only indoor range in the area, and the outdoor range is rather crappy.

We've been doing most of our shooting out at B's parents place, which is about 20 minutes from town, and has a nice berm for a backstop, but in the winter, tromping around in knee deep snow can be a pain... though recovering brass is pretty easy in those conditions.

Oh well. I'll just have to keep my ear to the ground and see how things go. And start a weekly troll of the gun shops and wallyworld to find some food for the XD.

-Jon

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Turn Coat - just a quick book reviewlet.

By now, you've all figured out I'm a Butcher fanboy, but I thought I'd comment on Turn Coat, his newest book in the Dresden series. I've loved the Dresden books from word one, mostly for the snarky main character and strong secondary characters. And while Jim has been slowly expanding and interconnecting the story he started with those original three - his narritive paths have not always been as strong as they could be.

Not to say I could write better, but having read each of his books multiple times, I know where the weak points are.


And I can say without question that Turn Coat is by *far* the best book of the series to date, and Butcher has done a great job of starting to really weave his plot into something you can follow and almost predict. (Some people don't like predictable books, but I find that a book that uses a logical, and thusly proper progression has a touch of predictablity to it)

In short, awesome.

I hate waiting a full year for another book

-Jon

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Water Water Everywhere.... and not a drop to drink

Well... not yet

But its coming. Fargo Moorhead is looking to get a flood to rival the 97 flood. Crest is slated at something around 41 feet. Which... is a LOT of water. I don't think I'll be under water, but a lot of people I know are in danger of it. So this week's been a lot of trying to balance work with buckling down to help friends where I can.

The river is currently gaining about a foot every 4 hours (we're at 34 feet or so as of this posting) and should crest somewhere around Friday.

So, if I'm hard to get ahold of, for you folks that are wondering...

Thats probably why.

I wonder how much work it would be to weld some pontoons to my pickup...

Just kidding! (at least about the pontoons)

-Jon

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of Waterbased Paint and Plastic Men

It seems to me that every hobby I have is expensive. And I have a fair number of hobbies. My latest addition is a Warhammer 40k army. Once apon a time I tried painting up an Empire army for Warhammer Fantasy, but I just didn't have the patience for THAT many models.

Few years later, I'm finally swayed back into giving it a roll, and my Aleran Legion Chapter of Space Marines was born. By far painting Space Marines is much, much less onerous then painting a more numerous model army. This is something I can stomache, thirty or forty models making up a decent point cost army, as opposed to double or triple that number.

They're also a fairly robust army in game terms, so they should be fun to field. My standard color scheme is Blue and grey, with grey being the primary base color and Blue being the secondary color, which is primarily on the pauldrons/shoulder guards. Since every army needs to be painted in at least three colors, my third color is the Company color.

Codex Astartes Space Marine chapters have Ten Companys of a Hundred Marines a piece. The first Company is called the Veteran company, and almost never fights as a unit, instead offering its services piecemeal to the other Companys. My Aleran Legion Chapter is based on the colors, and some ripped off history from the Codex of Alera books by Jim Butcher. They have nothing to do with Warhammer, but a Company of Space marines known as the Battle Crows sounded cool.

So, my Battle Crows are the First Company of the Aleran Legion chapter. As the first company, thier color *should* be white, according to Codex. But these are MY Space Marines, and so their company color is RED. If I ever get around to creating the other companys (Besides the Scout company) the double headed eagles on their armour will be the company color. But in the backstory of the "Battle Crows" thier leader was once struck by a magical lightening bolt (in my armys case, a Psybolt) while holding the company standard. It was unscathed, except for the eagle, which turned Black. Hense, all eagles in the first company, are Black. Making them the Battle Crows.

So far, everything's been turning out really well. I've got two Tactical Squads, a Captain (who I don't like and will be replacing) a five man Devistator squad, what will be a ten man Scout squad lead by a Sargent Telion miniature, one Dreadnought and a five man Terminator squad. All in all, plenty of firepower. I'd also like a five or ten man squad of Vanguard Veterans to round out my various troop type choices.

So far the two Tac squads and the Captain are almost done, which means I'll be playable within the rules. My first half of the scout squad is coming along, and I've started putting paint on the Dreadnought and Terminators.

The more I've done, the steadier my hand has gotten, and while I'll never paint at 'eavy Metal standards, I'm still pretty proud of my ability to put paint where I want it.

Now I just want to get a game started :)

-Jon

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Random Rambles on Writing

I've been bouncing around the blogosphere to some of my less read blogs that I really should drop onto my blogroll so they become more read blogs.

But, I'm lazy and don't feel like updating right now. I will eventually get to it.

Specifically I've been reading about writing, from... well other writers. I don't really consider blogging writing, although it is - for me its mostly a stream of conciousness thing, and thusly isn't in the same realm as writing.

I don't spend a lot of time researching posts, or coming up with pithy commentary to news articles. I just write whats on my mind, be it a rant, something cool I found, or just decompressing my skull.

I also do some co-operative writing, which I've talked about before... and when I get the bug, I sit down and write fiction. These things are things that are usually wholely mine, and I've admittedly never finished a one of them. I've gotten close occasionally.

The primary issue with why they never get 'finished' is that sometimes an idea strikes me, and I *have* to write it. So I do, or, I go until the train gets derailed by people talking to me, or the idea is on paper, even if the story it could be is not finished... or whatever. A great example of this was a fanfiction I started for the Dresden files at least 3 or 4 years ago. I was sitting in a Denny's watching a trio of asian youths out way too late on a school night (I seldom go to Denny's before Midnight) hassling their waitress.

I got the idea to turn it into a Harry Dresden oneshot. Just a little stream of conciousness bit... that grew exponetially as I poked at it until finally it was almost the start of a short story. Except... I didn't really have a story.

Just a one off... that had gotten a bit too big for its britches.

Such is the way my brain works. I've been working on a story that takes a ShadowRun campaign of three long years and turns it into something we can look back and read. The fact of the matter is I've been working on it for almost as long as the campaign ran at this point. It will in all likelyhood never be finished. But, I'll keep poking at it when the mood hits.

Its how I do my solo writing. In spurts. Some of them are pretty long, a day or three. Sometimes they last ten minutes. I can't control them when they happen, all I can do is use them. Sometimes the products are pretty good and I'm proud of the product. Such as my unfinished, but actiony Blood and Water bit. Some of it... not so much. I keep everything. I like going back and reading stuff I wrote and seeing where I used to be weak and how my writing is evolving. I've even got some really old stuff, back from my teenage years and first college try... boy some of that is... crap. It was a start. Some people even liked it. But it was crap.

Now... now I'm an ok writer. Its been a long road to get here. I can write decent fan fiction (which, is probably saying something, but not much) I'll likely never write a novel - most of my stuff will be mostly for myself, save my co-op writing - but *I* get a kick out of it, and when I can I enjoy sharing... so I guess thats all that should matter.

-Jon

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gee, thanks Mr President

So, the DOW has tanked... again. This is becoming habitual. I haven't looked at my 401K since sometime in August, and I won't, except I'm considering at least diversifying a bit into Bonds or Gold or something.

I haven't made a decision there. But for the moment I'm loooking at my 401k as a long run proposition so I'm basically going to let it ride.

But I really need to thank Barak Obama for the great economy he's fostering right now. Since for the first time in the FOUR years I've worked here, I'm not going to get a raise of any type. We got the email the other day. No Merit increases this year.

They put them off til April, and now they're out and out canceling it. My 3 to 5 percent increase isn't much, compared to what I got my first couple years in this job - but now where's my inclination to get up and do a better then average job to hopefully get my merit increase hm?

I was really looking for that increase to offset my pay LOSS to going to days.

Thanks a lot, Mr President - you've sure helped this middle class worker out a huge amount.

-Jon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Like this will surprise anyone.

You are a

Social Conservative
(33% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(80% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Republican




Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test


Well it appears to have posted properly. Interesting test! Some of the questions were hilarious, go take it yourself!

Hat tip to: Breda

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obamanation...

So, I'm just flabbergasted.

I'm not really surprised, but its pretty painfull anyway. Everyone's favorite Democrats and our 'great' President Mr Messiah Barak Obama have set up a spending bill thats supposed to 'save' us from the recession that spends almost a third of last years entire federal budget.

Of course the truth is that A: What little stimulus is really in the bill isn't going to do a damn thing

And B: Its just full of pork. Oink Oink Oink.

(yes, I realize I'm over a week late on this, but I've been letting it stew for a while, as I thought about it)

From what I understand, if our Republican/Conservative Congressmen can actually win back some seats in 2010 there's a chance they can keep about eighty percent of this spending from happening.

Lets hope. But, for the moment, lets consider something. We've seen the *BIGGEST* spending bill *EVER*.

The total government money borrowed or printed in the last year has been absolutely stunning. And while Obama didn't technically *start* it, he's certainly riding the wave.

And we have four more *YEARS* of this.

YEARS.

Gods. We. Are. Fucked.

*sigh*

If it wasn't for my daily dose of Rush managing to make me *LAUGH* at it, I'd be in the corner crying somewhere.

I think I'm just going to go home and play some Dawn of War II. I wonder if someone could mod the heads of prominent democrats onto the heads of Orcs...

Burn the Heretic, Kill the Mutant, Destroy the Xenos! *racks the slide on his Bolter*

-Jon

Friday, February 20, 2009

I like the Unbending Traditionalist part...


You are The Hierophant


Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.


All things relating to education, patience, help from superiors.The Hierophant is often considered to be a Guardian Angel.


The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.


What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Day, Another Dollar... which tommorrow might be worth about fifty cents.

So I've been pondering writing about the recent shinanagans perpetuated by those idiots some other idiots voted into office. However, there are a lot of people out there (some of them found on my blog roll) that have done a better job lambasting this.

So I'll settle for this - Remember this as we weather the storm, because this was just the opening salvo, the shot across the bow - if you will. It's going to get much, much worse, and it will continue for at least two to four years barring acts of God or angry militia.

(Please note I'm not advocating an armed uprising... yet.)

So instead I'm going to talk about my recent time waster. Europa Universalis III (In Nome update). It is perhaps the epitome of long term grognard games. Or at least, the highest summit I have climbed to date. You'll have to forgive me, but the company who publishes it eludes me, but they also made another gem called Hearts of Iron II which simulates the things that lead up to and through the Second World War, and into the Cold War, along with a lot of spiffy what if scenarios - and that game can suck me in for days on end, and it only covers a brief span of thirty years at the longest.

...EU3 on the other hand starts in 1399 and can last until 1826 or so. Thats a game for the long haul. As with most high level world domination/strategy type games, the trick is an eternal juggling act, praying certain random number generators fall your way as often as possible. (And, when they don't that you've covered as many bases as possible.) There are no less then four sub systems to the economy, two of which are intertwined in a way that makes very little sense, when viewed from a high level, but once you figure out how it works, at least functions in an understanding manner.

Since the setting is Europe, its fair to understand that you're going to be at war with someone neigh on constantly. Early game, there are tons of little 'countrys' scattered about Europe, all of which have interwoven alliances and royal marriages enough to make one's head spin. (And give you a good idea of just how screwed up WWI *could* have been). But being at war is bad for your overall stability as a country, and generally the locals don't like it when you take papa away from them (by drafting him into the army, natch) and then send him off to die on the fields of Normandy with a few thousand of his closest friends).

And of course, you only have so much room in the manpower pool before there's just no more men left to re-enforce your military if you've over extended yourself. (So, for example, its best to try to *not* piss off the French, they just have too many troops early game. But, they're the French, and back then still sorta had Balls and wanted to rough up virtually everyone.)

I find myself playing England most of the time. Probably because I like having a wall of wooden ships keeping the Euro-trash from soiling my front yard. There is a down side though - you have to find a way to deal with Scotland, since the idiots seem to like to ally with France, and then declare war on you. So the French can take your few Europe propper provences early game, while you basically subjigate the Scotts. And you have to put down those rabble rousers, because if you don't, they'll just keep poking at you, usually at the most in-opportune times.

And of course, the computer does like to throw you a serious curve now and again. In my last game, France had off and decided to declare war again because well, they were bored, and I'm England, and still had my (three) European provences, and this obviously annoyed them. So Suddenly I find myself fighting Castile (early Spain), France, and a bunch of tiny French Lapdogs. France has walked into my provences and sat on them and have too many troops for me to dig out.

...So I attacked Castile. Who's troops I could manage, my allys (and willing Vassals, the crazy Irish) joined in with gusto, and I was halfway to trouncing Castile and forcing it to heel when the bulwark that had held the French back (A country called Aragon, whom the French could not march through to aide the Castiles, and my Navy was handling the rest) found out (along with me) that the Burgundy King had willed his throne to me (Henery the IVth, at the time. I wouldn't will my throne to Henery the Fourth, but thats just me) and that ticked Aragon off cause they wanted it... or something. So they went to War with me. They of course couldn't get past my Navy either... but they sure could attack me in Castile.

Where I was having a grand old time, and dispite getting low on manpower, was set to crush the spanish... until 14,000 fresh troops were knocking on my door.

The keys to crushing the French long term were in my fingers... and the King of Burgundy just couldn't hold onto life for another three years while I finished prosecution.

What a mess.

Guess I'll just have to try again :D

Monday, February 2, 2009

Some Fiction for lack of real content.

For lack of real content right now... I dug this piece of fiction out of my old files today. Its the 'opening gambit' off a story called 'Blood and Water' that I wrote as an exemplar for an writing site that never got off the ground - but I like it, so I'll share.

I hope you enjoy. Some folks will recognize the main character's name.

-Jon

Blood and Water - Opening Gambit.

Darkness was always an ally, he’d been taught, years before, but never a friend – because it gave the same advantages to both sides – if they knew how to use them. At the moment it was a mixed blessing, as he continued his attempt to pick the lock of the rooftop entrance to the building. He’d never been particularly adept at the skill, but then, the locks in this city were seldom all that good, either. Good locks cost money, and that was always in short supply.

However – today, this particular lock was beginning to frustrate him. His concentration was suddenly broken by a voice in his ear, “Boss, I’ve seen you pop a lock a hell of a lot faster. You take much more time; you’re going to grow roots.”
The pick he was using snapped and he growled, “Would you like to come down here and do it kid?”

“Um, I’ll pass.” She recognized the edge in his voice, and there was no point twisting the knife.

“Good. Keep the channel clear.” Rising from his crouch he drew his pistol. It was a .45 caliber semi automatic – and as he partner who was across the way would tell you, it was his baby.

From behind her binoculars Silver swore under her breath. The job was supposed to be a silent run – but they hadn’t had enough cred to put together the proper tools, and it was about to get rather loud and personal. The boss, as she often called him though she though of him as more then that, when he wasn’t around – occasionally made rash decisions when he was frustrated. If they were lucky though, they could still pull this off. All he had to do was screw on a silencer…

Aiming at the wood around the door’s bolt, Devin fired three shots in quick succession, waited a moment, and then fired three more. The shots echoed through the night. He hadn’t brought the silencer. It wasn’t that he wanted to be loud; it was that he had no choice. He’d snapped his last good pick in the lock, and now even with a key, he wouldn’t be getting through the door. And – well good quality silencers were hard to find if you didn’t build them into the weapon itself, and Devin hadn’t been able to score any recently with their shortage of cred.

You see, a good silencer for a pistol like a .45 isn't cheap, overly effective, or last very long in many cases. You could make a good one that would last for a good long while to be used with something like a .22, and it wouldn’t make more then a pop for noise if machined correctly. But a big caliber is a different beast. Even if he did have one, it wouldn’t make the gun whisper silent. Though, it would be a far improvement to the noise he was currently making – he simply didn’t have a choice.

Rearing back his foot he slammed it into the door once, then twice, and the third kick, the bolt blew free of the weakened wood frame and the door slammed open. “I’m going in. Watch the street for me.”

“Affirmative,” was all he got in response. Which was just fine, there wasn’t much the girl could do to help him at this point anyway – if they didn’t complete this job, they were going to be in for a hard time. Their intel indicated the building had between five and ten occupants at any one time – three of them were muscle. One was a scientist, and the others were there to see to the scientist’s needs as he worked on… whatever it was he did. The contact hadn’t been overly specific.

Devin’s job was to grab the scientist, make an exit, and deliver him to the welcome arms of a rival gang. In this case the Suits.

In all honesty, Devin hated working for the Suits more than anyone else, even Guiken, but they had cred, and a job – and Devin needed the pay. In all truth, he didn’t really care who ran what, or what gang war was going on. His services, for the most part – went to the highest bidder – and well, if that meant that this week he was shooting the same people he’d helped last week… that was the way the world worked.

That didn’t mean he didn’t have principles, it just meant when a man needed to be paid – sometimes those principles got forgotten…

The first of the goons was at the bottom of the stairway, carrying what looked like a 9mm sub machine gun, one of Guiken’s latest models. Devin didn’t pause a second as he pulled the trigger twice, emptying the last two rounds in the clip into the man’s center mass. The force of the shots slammed the goon up against the back wall of the landing, causing him to lose his grip on his subgun. For half a second, it looked like the man was down. But he started to struggle back up again.

Devin swore, the man was wearing body armour, and he needed to reload. Stupid, he should have popped a fresh mag at the top of the stairs. Now there wasn’t time. Stepping forward he leaped off the top of the landing, his black trench coat fanning out behind him as he drove both feet into the goon’s chest just before he got to his feet, driving the air out of the man’s lungs and slamming him back into the ground. As the man hit the floor, Devin rolled to the side instinctively, and bounced back to his feet, snapped his right wrist and caught the retracted combat baton there with practice ease. Snapping the baton open he brought it down smartly on the goon’s head. He wouldn’t be getting back up, possibly ever.

Pausing before heading down the next flight of stairs, Devin retracted the baton, and slid it back into his sleeve. He only had a few seconds – but what he did with them was going to make all the difference in the world at this point. The building had three stories, but only the ground floor was supposedly occupied. It was where the package did his work for the Syndicate. Chances were that they’d already called in their go card when he’d fired the first shots. That meant he’d have to move quick. But they’d planned for this, more or less.

Flicking the release on his .45 he ejected the spent mag, caught it, and tucked it in his trench pocket in a motion that spoke of long practice, retrieved a fresh one from the magazine bag on his hip, slid it into the weapon with a firm slap of his palm, and then hit the slide release. Sliding the pistol back into his shoulder holster he picked up the fallen goon’s gun, “Silver, talk to me. What have we got?”

“SUV just pulled up in front, standard Syndicate issue. Four goons, package is still inside though. How you want to play it?” Silver answered from her perch

“Kill the truck, clean up any loose ends then get to the van. I’m out in 90 seconds. Don’t be late.” Devin took the stairs down two at a time, subgun up, and ready.

Half a block away, and six stories up, Silver acknowledged, “Rightio. One less SUV, coming right up,” she said softly as she put her eye to the sniper scope, scanned the area again, then pressed the detonator button she’d taped to the rifle’s stock. The ground beside the SUV exploded, slamming a few hundred pounds of concrete and asphalt into the bottom of the vehicle, doing its share of damage, and with enough force that the heavy vehicle toppled over. Giggling softly, Silver smiled. She’d always enjoyed blowing things up – and she had a particular knack for it.

Inwardly she blew out a sigh of relief. She’d planted the charge under the sewer grate with the last of their plastique almost a week ago. She hadn’t been too sure of the detonator then, and it had rained since. But, so far besides the door, Mr. Murphy seemed to be staying out of their way. She saw one goon from inside stick his nose out for a moment then turn back inside suddenly. None of the goons in the truck were moving. They were either dead or injured enough to put them out of the fight for the moment. And she had thirty seconds or so to get to the van. Picking up the rifle she slung it over her shoulder and hoofed it for the far edge of the building.

Inside, Devin came through the door at the base of the stairs with his purloined subgun up and caught the first goon with a burst to the face, since they were wearing body armour, he didn’t hesitate to aim higher this time around. Blood splattered and he turned taking aim at the third, and what should be final goon that was just stepping in from outside the front door. Devin didn’t have time for a precise shot and stitch him from the groin to his neck. As the man fell Devin slung the subgun over his shoulder, it was empty anyway and drew his .45. One by one he quickly cleared the rooms, there was only four, and finally came across his target. He was cowered down beside a workstation of some sort, along with his assistants. “Hello Doc. You’re coming with me – my employers have a job offer you simply cannot refuse.” Striding forward, he kept his gun trained on the three assistants, “As for you three – the contract doesn’t include you – so I would suggest you get out quick – and run for the nearest safe house, the Syndicate is likely not going to be happy with you.”

Outside Silver got to the edge of the building, grabbed a heavy black coil of rope and tossed it over to edge. Snapping the rope into the rappelling harness she already wore, she jumped head first off the building and started rappelling down. Landing on the roof of the delivery van she’d parked there earlier she hit a second detonator switch, this one clipped to her rappelling gear. Above, a small tie of detcord went off and the heavy rope slid down beside her. It wasn’t easy to get these days, and Devin wouldn’t have wanted to leave it behind. Hopping down off the van she hurried to shove the rope in the back then went around the front and hopped in the driver’s seat.

Reaching down Devin dragged the package up by his collar, “Come along Doc, I don’t want to be late. “ Swinging his gun around, he growled at the other three, “Run. NOW.”

They got the message and bolted for the door.

Pushing the package before him, Devin headed for the door. As typical, the scientist chose now to start protesting, “My work. I can’t leave… if I don’t complete the work the Syndicate will kill me, and my family.”

It was a typical sob story, and Devin wasn’t listening, “Bub the contract is for you – you want to tell my employer about your family, that’s your business. I’m just supposed to make sure your delivered reasonably unharmed, now MOVE.” The package moved, but a bit slower then Devin wanted, so he shoved harder. As they stepped into the buildings foyer they were presented with one of the assistants, who had retrieved one of the dead goon’s subguns, “I can’t let you take the doctor. His work is too important to the Syndicate to interrupt.”

Devin frowned, “I don’t have time for this – and you really don’t want to get shot. So put the gun down, and get the hell out.”

“No.”

“What are you gonna do? Shoot me?” Devin brought his pistol in line with the man’s head, “Cause chances are, you’ll hit the doctor.”

Outside, the squeal of tires could be heard.

“No. She is.”

Devin cursed and shoved the Doctor, before heading for the floor. Behind him, the second submachine gun ripped off a burst. A few of them caught him low in the back as he fired twice at the first assistant, both bullets catching him in the chest, and dropping him like a bad habit. Unlike the goons, and himself, the assistants weren’t wearing body armour. His ‘leather’ trench coat had a pair of flexible Kevlar layers built into the upper section like a vest, and he was wearing a Kevlar and ceramic vest below that. That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like hell to get shot though.

Rolling over he aimed at the second assistant, a petite little brunette who’d already dropped the subgun in shock. “Girl, get up and get the fuck out or I will put you on a slab.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. Getting up she ran for the door. Staggering as the pain of what felt like a busted rib hit him; Devin pushed himself up, and collected both subguns, shouldering them both before moving over to the doctor, “Get up.” When the package didn’t move fast enough, Devin grabbed him by the back of his collar and yanked him upwards, “I said UP.”

“I… I’ve been shot.”

Devin glanced down, hit in the upper arm, close to the shoulder, but it didn’t seem to be bleeding too badly, “It’s a flesh wound, now MOVE.”

With a shove they headed out front. Silver already had the van waiting. She shoved open the side door from inside, “What the hell took you boss?”

“Never mind. Get him inside and cover him. He’s been shot, but I’ll see to it in a minute.“ While Silver dragged the package into the van Devin dumped his acquired toys, holstered his pistol, and grabbed a pair of grenades from the back of the van. Jogging back inside despite the pain in his back he pulled the pins on the two canister grenades and tossed them in opposite directions before jogging back out to the van, hopping in the back and slamming the door shut, “Lass, get us the hell out of Syndicate territory.”

“Way ahead of you boss.” Silver replied as she put the truck in gear and floored it.

Behind them the two white phosphorus grenades exploded, setting fire to anything and everything they touched as the sound of private security sirens and squealing tires could be heard. Still, it looked like they’d gotten away clean. Coughing with a wince of pain Devin looked at the package, “Alright Doc let me see what I can do about that arm.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Rules of Vehicle Maintenance.

Its been a long day. I'm one hour into my standard eight at work, but I've been up since about 7:30 this morning (which isn't too far off when I'm normally going to bed). But my dad came into town this weekend for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that my poor S-10 has been running on maybe 3.5 cylinders (out of four) for the past month or two - and desperately needed attention. Problem was it's been colder then the Clinton Marriage Bed in Fargo of late, so I've been loath to mess with it, and it certainly wouldn't make the 186 mile trip home to Dad's beautifully heated garage reliably. So it waited.

This weekend was perfect, since today was gorgeous. Warmer then its been since November, Plenty of extra heat from my propane heaters, and relatively little work to be done on the cold concrete.

Now, I'm glad Dad came out to help me. I'm an old Farm kid, and I'm more then mildly mechanically inclined. I can handle basic maintenance on my vehicle (and do) and I've done larger jobs, like replacing brakes, and struts, starters and alternators. But I had no idea where to start with my rough running, not starting quite right pick up, and if dad hadn't come out to help, I'd probably still be in that garage scratching my head. (we admittedly got lucky... more on that in a minute.)

We decided that the first chore would be swapping the muffler which had gone bad. Neither of us thought this would be the answer to the problems, but it was a start - and more importantly would let us gauge how badly the vehicle was sounding once it was running properly muffled. This turned into a bit more of a project then originally envisioned.

And, it brought to mind the very first rule of Vehicle maintenenace - that being "If you go to the store to pick something up, and leave something behind you don't think will be necessary, you will invariably be going back." We stopped at Menards in the Morning to pick up a couple minor things after filling up on propane. While there, we happened across an angle grinder for cheap that Dad mentioned would be handy, but we shouldn't *need* it. (And he'd left both of his own at home.) Two hours of attempting to seperate the tailpipe, muffler and manifold assembly later, we went back to pick up the grinder.

An hour after that, it was off to O'Rielys to look into a muffler. They had two different models that were supposed to fit my truck, neither of which matched what was currently ON my truck - but since that particular exaughst job was something of a frankenstien's monster my brother had cobbled together, we weren't sure how much was 'stock.'

So, we took both. And since my engine wasn't running right, 4 new plugs, wires, a distributor cap and rotor, and on a whim because my dad had noticed my valve cover was leaking, a new gasket for that (the last will be key, later.)

Which, is virtually everything you could possibly believe you might need. You'd be wrong, and rule One was initiated again once we got back and determined that the tail pipe off my pick up would in no way fit to the muffler without a fair amount of reshapping (thank you Mark's Monster of a exaughst...)

A couple calls to O'Riely's around town netted us a tail pipe. So we ran out and picked that up, finding out that O'Riely's is open til 9 PM (this will be important later as well)

So we got the new tail pipe and the largest of the mufflers hung after that will very little trouble. Score one for the home team. Time to tackle the not firing right engine. (The New Muffler, btw sounds absolutely beautiful.)

We decided to start by pulling the valve cover and replacing the gasket. (We knew that wouldn't fix the problem... but it would be the most intensive part of the tear down and rebuild we had planned, so it made sense to do first. (We were also wrong, in my estimation. My dad prefers to think what happened was somehow caused by pulling the Valve cover off, but I just can't believe it)) Then we'd swap the plugs and see if that helped. If it didn't, we'd swap the wires, etc all the way back through the parts we had.

So after locating all 7! studs, one of which was hiding under a diaphram valve who's job I still don't know (and removing that valve was a reminder in Rule 3, that being - no matter how many tools you may own, in any given job, there will be one tool you wished you had, but can not find, or do not own.) Anyway, we managed to get the valve cover off with relatively little fuss, and then stepped back to eyeball things.

One thing stood out like a sore thumb. One of the little rockers (in this case, it appeared to be for the intake valve on what I'll call cylinder one) was not seated correctly.

For those of you who've never seen the intake/exaughst valves for an internal combustion engine, the system has a push rod on one side of a lever (sorta looks like a see-saw) when the rod goes up, it closes the valve, and when the rod goes down, it opens. The intake valve on my truck was stuck about 3/4s or so open, and the little see saw was perpendicular to the rest of the valve assemblys. (thusly, when the push rod went up and down, the valve didn't move.)

Now. I will qualify this by saying that my dad prefers to beleive we somehow did this while removing the valve cover. And he does this because neither of us have any CLUE what kind of forces could cause this to happen in the engine and still allow it to function, and because if it happened once, it very well could happen again. The problem with his theory is that that rocker's bolt was as tight as any of the others, and we sure didn't beat on the cover to get it off.

So, we fixed that major issue, replaced the valve cover gasket (the original reason we pulled the cover) and re-assembled things. Then... just because we said we would, we swapped out the spark plugs.

In doing so, we managed to break one of the wires. Remeber above, where we bought new wires just in case?

Yah. When that wire broke, it was 9:30 on the dot. If we hadn't bought the wires, we'd have been up shit's creek. (Back to Rule 1)

It was an adventure (as it always is with my truck) but she run's beautifully now.

And, for people who've been paying attention... I've neglected to bring up Rule 2 of Vehicle Maintenance.

Rule 2 is one of the most important. However long you think it might take you to do something? Always give yourself time and a half at least... just in case. We started on my truck at 8 am, give or take. We finished re-assembly just before 10 PM. Except for a 2 hour interuption to meet my Grandmother for lunch, we spent the whole day on my truck - and only $Diety and Lady Luck's smile got us done in time to get me to work.

Oh, and the best part?

Muffler: $35
Tailpipe: $16
Wires: $11
4 Sparkplugs: $10
Total Parts cost: $72

Tool cost(angle grinder): $21 dollars.

At $93 dollars, this is the cheapest major repair I've ever had to do to this pickup.

Its gonna feel so damn good getting to bed this morning.

-Jon

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Great Plains Republic?

Sean over at I aim to misbehave has an interesting post, asking the question "How long do you think the United States has, and if it does break up - how will it happen"

I opined a bit in his comments, but I thought I'd mumble on a bit more over here in my own blog.

As a Patriot, I find thinking about the disoloution of my country a very hard thing to ponder. I *love* this country. I love what it stands for, the strength of the system that was designed long before I was fathered, and the idea that it may indeed stand the test of time.

However, I believe that I am becoming one of a minority. Call my Conservative. Call me old fashioned, or what have you. It is clear to me that there is a large group of people in this country that do not ask the question put to them by John F Kennedy - that being "What Can you Do for your Country" but instead, "What can my Country do for ME?"

The values that made this country a super-power - that gave it a production capcity unrivaled anywhere in the world, and the will to use the might it granted have been slowly erroded. I'll leave the why's to another post. Suffice to say its happened. Its still happening.

Is all for naught? Are we bound to go from this limited Republic to something that resembles not the Free, but United States of America - but instead the Socialist States of America?

I don't think so. But I don't think it will be easy. Many people have come to believe they are entitled to things - forgetting that nothing in this life is free. Life is purchased dearly by Pain and Discomfort, both on the part of the Mother, and the Child. That free healthcare you want? Public Education? You may not pay taxes, but *someone* does. And those taxes are paying for your 'free' ride.

All that said, if the Federal Government was to faulter and fail, and I woke up one day to find North Dakota independant from its neighbors, I wouldn't immediately fret. While my job may find itself suddenly missing - I live in a state that produces no small amount of things. North Dakota is one of the leading exporters of Coal, there is a fairly robust supply of oil thats been found locally, and of course - North Dakota is a grain belt state. We have market leverage galore, if we can hold together, and chose to use it.

Would it be fun? No - probably not. It would be hard, and the changes to both this country, and my life would be epic. And I don't pretend that such a thing would happen without bloodshed. Be it because the remenants of the Federal Government come waltzing in, or because a few thousand Federal Penitentary inmates suddenly find themselves free to do as they please.

In the end, I see the states that have similar interests banding together in a great States collapse. The East Coast, with its many centers of learning, and some bastions of industry (some of which would be re-opened much to the Green's dismay) would band together. The Deep South, with its shared heritage, and similar industry would become an agrigate, the grain belt -stretching from the Dakotas to Texas might become the Great Plains Republic, and so forth.

Sadly, I do not see such a land as being stable. The United State's power is such because it is United. I don't have to worry about shipping something in from overseas, or have fifty different treatys to get my goods to the world market.

But - whatever comes, will come. For good or ill, I think Sean is right in one thing - and that is that this great nation will not be the same nation I grew up in, when my children grow old. I don't know what shape the country will have taken in that time - but, much as the Forefathers of old may not recognize that which they wrought - in a generation or three, Standing or Not, we will likely not recognize this Union either.

-Jon

Monday, January 26, 2009

Its all Greek to Me

The Idiossey a rousing tale of snark about the rise of Obamacles by Iowahawk. Take a peek, its well worth it.

-Jon

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Buyer's Remorse?

So, I listened to the Ascention Crowning Coronation Inauguration of Obama today - after the fact. My good friend Mr Limbaugh carried it on his show, and while he offered a little color commentary, for the most part we got to hear it unmarred.

I have to wonder, for all the hype surrounding this blitz of media masturbation about how there we going to be SO many people in town, and how Obama's words were going to be SO historic that people would be carving them in Marble some day - what that crowd in the mall felt (that crowd that was a hell of a lot smaller then all the hoopla would have you believe).

First Obama managed to flub the Oath of Office. How the hell do you do that? Suddenly realize whats expected of you and get cold feet?

After that, it certainly seemed like they were awfully confused at some points of his speech. You could occasionally have heard a pin drop during the speech it was so quiet. I'm sure some one somewhere has penned that a reverent hush fell over the crowd or some such thing. I don't believe reverence was what silenced them.

There was a poem, but honestly I tuned it out. It wasn't much of a poem, and it droned on for a very, very long time.

And the benedition? Are we back in the fiftys people? I'm not going to tear it a part - but... oy.

*sigh*

Word was people were filing out early - so I can only ask - did the crowd suddenly get a taste of buyers remorse? Did they realize what they had let become created?

Time will tell. I wish Obama and his family all the best. But for his proposed policys I have nothing but scorn.

As I've said before - its going to be an interesting four years. And we all know what the Chinese say about interesting.

-Jon

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The trials and tribulations of co-op writing.

I'm a bit of an amatuer writer. (Ok, you all can stop laughing now, I wasn't talking about this blog.)

I like writing fiction. I started back in highschool with Star Wars Simms online, and have only expanded from there. I've written sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and even tried techno-thriller a time or two.

Sci-fi though is my bread and butter, and on occasion I'll get an idea and ontop of writing the whole thing stem to stern completely (which is a feat in and of itself) will do it solo. This isn't frequent though, and the reason is that I find that co-op writing (where there are at least two authors, handling different veiw points and characters) makes the whole task more fun, and often can feel more alive. (Someone writing a character reacting to something I've just written might come up with a completely different idea then I had had)

There are a lot of co-op writing 'Simm's' out there, though I tend to gravitate towards Star Trek ones. I had my fill of Star Wars early on, and Star Trek has enough structure and 'cannon' that pretty much everyone can be familar with whats going on without having to be a complete Trekkie. It can be a lot of fun - you create a character, join a ship - and assist in writing out an adventure, not unlike watching an episode of Trek on TV.

The down side is that people are people - and writers block happens to all of us. If the ship is waiting on a pivital piece of action of dialogue to continue, and the person who's supposed to provide it disappears, can't come up with anything to write, or just doesn't care - an entire cadre of writers can suddenly find themselves with nothing to write.

There is nothing worse then haveing done some forward writing, and not being able to share it.

I've been the guy with writers block just as often as I've been the guy I am now - waiting for other people to act so I can move on. Such things happen, but it is frustrating. I currently write for three ships. The USS Lancelot, the USS Camelot and the USS Kyushu - which is two more then I usually do, and one more then my usual upper limit. (I like to get very invovled in my ships, so keeping track of more then 2 seperate story lines can be hard at times.)

Of the three I'm probably most attached to my character on the Lance. I play the Chief Operations Officer, and I like the ship, and some of the things I have planned out for character development, and even some possible mission planning. But the Lance feels like a ship on her last legs. Posting as slowed to below a crawl and the ship as a while, while it might have a few small things to do, is waiting for the next big post. But I don't know if that will be enough of a shot in the arm or not. It'll be too bad too, if thats the case - finding a slot elsewhere in the fleet where my Lance character would fit will be hard.

My character on the Cam is a fighter pilot, and a Squadron Commander. My take on Star Trek fighters (not unlike a lot of Star Trek concepts itself (I don't believe in a utopian future where people just do things for the betterment of mankind)) is a little different, but its been a fun exploration - and I really like the story we're penning now - even if some of it is hard to write (Its not a very light hearted tale).

And then we have the Ky, my newest ship, and the one I'm still trying to find my legs on. I'm playing the Chief of Security, something I've *never* done. I always play Ops, or a Pilot of some sort. Securty is new, as is the character design. But I like my Russian hardnose - and there are some interesting developments on her as well that I'm looking forward to.

Since the second week of the new year came around I've found myself bubbling with ideas, and things to write -while most people are still shaking off that holiday funk. Its been frustrating, and I hope it starts to change. I gotta take advantage of this zing of energy while I can :)

-Jon

Monday, January 5, 2009

There and back again...

Christmas and the New Year have come and gone, and as every year before there were good moments and bad nessled into a holiday I sadly no longer truely enjoy. I get through it, try to have a good time - but some of the bliss as it were has tarnished and gone by the wayside.

I know why this is, and until such a day as I mayhap start my own family and my own traditions, this is the way things will be.

All told, content with this fact is better then the alternative.

So this morning, as with many of the previous mornings as I've sat here at my desk at work - guiding the technical drones and poking at a few stores to correct minor issues I've found myself... restless.

I'm ready for a change. I'm not yet sure what that change might be - but I think its time to start looking for it.

Ten years ago, I was looking forward to graduating highschool and then moving onto college in what seemed like a very bright career... doing something. Back then I wasn't sure, and in my various attemps at college I've poked at Computer Science, Computer Hardware and even Criminal Justice.

None of the above were ever pursued long, and while the reasons were many to that end, the reality of it was I just didn't enjoy that type of learning anymore. I love to learn - its one of the few joys in my life that has never quit giving - but sitting in a classroom surrounded by increasingly young seeming faces listening to a well meaning proffessor drone on while I tried to take notes just didn't take.

So I learned in other ways. In the past ten years I've run a business, worked in fabrication and packaging of various computer components, packaged oatmeal, made pizzas, dug ditches, sold toys, worked construction, built floor trusses, and of course, done lots, and lots of tech support. Each of these jobs and or occupations has taught me something. Sometimes it was as simple as knowing that I never wanted to do that again if I could help it.

Sometimes it was something deeper, like finding something that truely satisfied me, but didn't pay the kind of wage I could live on.

My current job is something of a combination of all those things. I really did used to love this job, and I still enjoy it. I like puzzling out problems, proving that I know how to solve them, and more importantly am *good* at this job.

I don't begrudge my fellows who have college degrees. They worked their way up in a different path then I did -thats all. For better or worse, I chose, at least for a time to forgo college and prove myself other ways.

This has closed a lot of doors for me that I'd be interested in, but has opened others. I know at this point I've probably gone as far as I can go in my current job. To go farther and look into new things I'd need to find a new employer, and very likely - due to my lack of degree, start at the bottom again.

I'm not afraid of the bottom - its very easy to get noticed there if you do things right.

But - I'm not quite ready to go back to that yet. So for now I'm biding my time, with my ear to the ground as it were. Ten years has given me a fair number of contacts, and every now and then, I hear about something that might interest me. I've let a few of the ones in the past few years go... but now I think maybe it'll be time for something new. I'm not sure what that will be yet. It could just be a part time job, learning a new trade.

Maybe it'll be a new career.

Maybe I'll meet a good woman and settle down proper like.

I don't know.

But - I know I'm ready for a change.

Now, I just have to go out and meet it.

-Jon