Thursday, July 28, 2016

Stranger Things

Does a strange job of plucking all the strings...

I've heard that Netflix analyzes its massive customer usage database to determine what its viewers will pay to see.  The idea makes an interesting sort of sense in a business in the age of big data sort of way, but I've never felt it being done to me. Until now...

Stranger Things, starring Winona Ryder, offers up elements, touches, and tropes from a wide array of 1970-90s SciFi, Romcoms, Horror, and Coming of Age movies.  It riffs on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (frazzled mom desperately seeking her missing son, check!), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Mia Sara look-alike, check!), E.T. The Extraterrestrial (Drew Barrymore knock-off, blonde pigtails and all, check!), any 
Molly Ringwald movie (gangly redhead with big glasses, check!), Firestarter (psychokinetic waif preyed upon by nameless government agency, check!), Altered States (under water sensory deprivation tank, check!), Poltergeist (Craig T. Nelson stand-in, check!), The Lost Boys (improbably capable pubescent nerds to the rescue, check!), Alien (Giger-esque monster life cycle, check!), The Fury (death by SPOILER, check!), etc., etc...

The "old" cars, dated fashions, and pre-internet technology evokes a strange nostalgia (most of the 80s really were not the good old days).  The storyline is compelling so far.  I'm going to continue binging.  I hope they have sussed out the sort of ending I'll enjoy.

[UPDATE: Yup, they did good. Fun stuff.]

[UPDATE: Sharon Hill @IDoubtIt at Twitter added: "Also X-Files derived, with some Stand By Me." Good points.]

[UPDATE: Others have suggested references to The Goonies, but I'm not quite feeling it...]

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Did I Mention My Eclectic Tastes?

I keep adding to the shelf books I won't have time to read...

Stopped to visit the Book Haven in Prescott Valley, AZ, after a visit to the doctor's office.

The Living Thoughts of Confucius, by Alfred Doeblin

Utopia, by Sir Thomas More

Stalkers and Shooters: A History of Snipers, by Kevin Dockery

Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Why We Are Who We Are, by Frans De Waal

I am so glad I'm not drawn to bars the way I am to used book stores.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Treat

From Mike Olbinski and Kerry Muzzey...

I discovered Mike Olbinski and Kerry Muzzey by way of a Twitter post by Phil Plait last year suggesting that Olbinski's short film, "Monsoon II," was worth a look.  It certainly was.  Thanks to Kerry Muzzey it was also worth a listen.

Olbinski has another short film out this year called "Vorticity."  Again it features music by Muzzey; this time his single "Found."

Yet again Olbinski's utterly amazing timelapse weather photography is empowered by Muzzey's ethereal yet powerful music.  Either are impressive in their own right, but combined they exceed the sum of their parts in a wondrous way.

Watch "Vorticity." Then go rewatch "Monsoon II."

Photo Credit: Mike Olbinski via Vimeo via

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thirty Years Is A Long Time

I returned to Gunsite for a 250 Pistol class a full three decades after my first...

The first time I went to Gunsite in May of 1986 I wore a HK P7 PSP in a Roger's speed rig.

This time I learned how to drive a Glock 22 Gen4 with a Streamlight TLR1 in a Level III Safariland holster while unlearning outdated techniques. The new methods are better, they're just not engraved on my DNA like the 1986 methods.

Between my duty belt and the AR500 plate armor (which I wore only in the outdoor and indoor stimulators) I all but cancelled out my recent weight loss. Truth be told, I removed the "Hey, keep yer fricken mitts off my buttons" SLS Hood Monday evening and the "Note: do not under any circumstances fail to definitively push down and rotate forward 90 degrees to the stop this strap assembly before attempting to proceed to the next retention device" SLS after a very frustrating Wednesday. I can live with and/or stay alive with the ALS retention device, which can also be had in a variety of Safariland concealment holsters.

In the high desert water loss is insensible. It's not the heat, it's the lack of humidity and the thinner air. By the time you know you're in trouble, you're in deep. If you're not peeing clear several times a day you're doing it wrong.  In the toilets at the South Range there was a little sign that asked you to evaluate your urine color.  You might be fine, in need of a quart, in need of a quart in the next 15 minutes, or in dire and immediate need of two quarts in the next 30 minutes.  Very helpful.  In 1986 we stood behind a convenient bush to piss and held on to anything more serious for a stop at the restrooms near the classroom at lunch or supper time.

More than once this week it was time for more ibuprofen, a long hot bath, and a couple fingers of Ardbeg...

Richard Mann's (he who arranged the 2016 Scout Rifle Conference) son "Bat" was in our 250. He's a capable shooter and an affable young man. PS, I had my "Wednesday Slump" first thing in the morning - suddenly suffering from vapor lock trying to make a Level III retention rig work when time was added to the equation. Gratefully I recovered - by abandoning another retention level, and had a pleasant rest of the day.

I ended up shooting my way to the finals in the Friday afternoon shoot off.  The trick is not to miss any targets, and if you do, fewer than your esteemed opponent.  In the end the Bat Mann won the shoot off by beating your's truly fair and square. Young Bat made no mistakes, I made only one - a split second bobble during the mandatory magazine change.  As I told another elder and better, the graveyard is full of fella's who "Almost..."

As a huge added bonus there was a Scout Rifle class and 2016 conference going on at the same time.

I met Andy Langlois and Splithoof from the forum in person at lunch Monday. Our leather baron is an even more distinguished presence in person. Splithoof exudes relaxed confidence. They both seemed to be having a good time.

Andy and I met Makarov from the forum Tuesday evening for dinner. The company was superb and while I'm glad Chino Valley has places it calls restaurants, next time we'll dine in Prescott.  We'll get the 1903 Clifton/Gunsite 'Smithy pseudo-scout and Eric's Chingring Seven out into the desert and do some shooting one of these days (after the fire restrictions are lifted). 

I had a very interesting and refreshingly honest chat with a member of the Mossberg contingent Wednesday evening at the Galco sponsored BBQ. I asked if marketing and engineering deliberately put their heads together to decide whether making a rifle too light would actually cut into sales by the bulk of their target market who are buying range toys or tactical deer rifles, rather than people who live day in day out with them (the much less common carry daily, shoot rarely sort of person the Scout Rifle is intended for). I was told the medium contour - not even sporter weight - barrel was a deliberate decision based on the market perception that heavy barrels are more accurate, and (with a conspiratorial wink) that the extra weight does't hurt at the bench where most owners will shoot them. Still, I was told that after this week they may have re-look at the barrel contour and overall weight of the piece. We agreed that making a commercial rifle that feeds from M14/M1A magazines is a major plus in the eyes of many gun buyers. Finally, the rep emphasized that this is a scout package applied to an existing rifle, not one built from the ground up as a fully compliant Scout Rifle. The rep was impressed by the current surge of interest in the Scout Rifle concept, but wonders a little how just how large the market really is.  I handled the new Mossberg rifle and while not as light as a KimberSteyr, or even an RGSR, it's a compact, well-balanced rifle. As a bonus, Andy introduced me Jim Brockman, and I sat with Lindy and Janelle at the BBQ.

On Friday after our 250 shoot off I spoke with a rep from Steyr. I told him I'd like to see the Canadian Rangers prototype as a factory option, since some of us only want a scope on our scouts during hunting season. I told him the plastic BUIS might be enough to hunt our way back the car, but that no one would head out into with bush for month with only the coarse plastic sights to point his rifle. He took that in, then mentioned that they made the engineers shoot their Steyr rifles with the BUIS and that, while it could be done, all found it challenging, and one rear sight actually broke that week. He said "...the backup sights are rudimentary and we are going to have a look at that." He also wants to talk with someone about optics. He said something to the effect that " dot sights have come so far, but the scout scope hasn't been updated in decades. How about a switch that would allow you to pick 2x or 6x? Or a scope that could be used in the conventional or forward position?" Not sure this receptive young man knows much about optics but his enthusiasm was impressive and genuine. I could have talked to him for another hour at least, but the closing comments for our 250 were beginning...

Saturday, after a week at Gunsite, then spending all day removing the demolished wood from my old deck to the dump, I'm looking for the glass that will hold four fingers - and a thumb - of Ardbeg.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Some more books...

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson, one of my favorite SF authors.

The New AR-15 Complete Owner's Guide, by Walt Kuleck (with Greg King) because the rifle after next will be an AR-15.

Time to declare a book buying hiatus; the bills for the remodeled deck and the new roof are looming.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Is it Really Me You Miss

Or just your long lost youth?

As I've mentioned before, Don Henley has written the soundtrack of my life, for better and worse. Sometimes much worse...

So last night I dreamt of an old friend who I loved once, more than I knew at the time perhaps. In the dream, which did not last near long enough, she had no reason to give me the time of day, let alone forgive me, but she was as gentle and kind and funny as she always was...

Queue Don Henley's "That Old Flame"

Got a message in my mailbox
From an old friend I hardly see
All it said was you were trying
To get in touch with me

And I stared down at your number
And I felt passion and I felt fear
And I wondered what the hell you wanted
After all these years

'Cause there is danger in the embers
And you have only yourself to blame
If you get burned when you try to rekindle
That old flame

Well I know we ended badly
And I was angry for a long long time
But I've grown some and I wanted you to know that I'm doing just fine

And I'm not asking for a replay
I got no delusions, got no designs
Can I borrow just a little cup of kindness
For Auld Lang Syne

'Cause there is danger in the embers
And you have only yourself to blame
If you get burned when you try to rekindle
That old flame

Speak to me plain
Tell me the truth
Is it really me you miss
Or just your long lost youth?

Yeah there is danger in the embers
And you know nothing, nothing stays the same
Yeah you can get burned when you try to rekindle
That old flame
Yeah you can get burned when you try to rekindle
That old flame

The song doesn't quite apply, but these lyrics toward the end haunt me in my middle age:

Speak to me plain
Tell me the truth
Is it really me you miss
Or just your long lost youth?

And this I just remembered. She and I attended an Eagles concert at the Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, the summer of 1978. It rained but I brought a sheet of plastic with room for two. It was one of the best dates ever...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

There Are Things I Miss

By not having cable...

Don Henley's performance on Austin City Limits, for example.

Seems there was quite the episode (No.41) of Austin City Limits in October of 2015. Here are four of the performances preserved on YouTube:

That Old Flame with Martina McBride

The Heart of the Matter

Words Can Break Your Heart with Trisha Yearwood.

Praying For Rain

Austin City Limits, produced by KLRU TV and broadcast by PBS, has long been one of Texas' finest exports.

Photo credit ©KLRU Scott Newton

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It's Like Magic

Every day my deck gets more and more complete...

Cassie, Erik, David Puthoff, and I removed the old decrepit deck, which was quaint if not compliant, by the afternoon of Sunday the 3rd of July.

Gary Smith, our local Groom Creek handyman is building me a new one under the watchful eye of Mathilda the wonder dog.  Tuesday the 5th.

I'll track the progress here as the work proceeds.  Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

Friday 8 July 2016

Gary made good progress through mid-afternoon Saturday the 9th.  He has discovered much about the limitations of the previous builders' DIY skills...

We agreed painting all the new wood is a good thing and that doing so is much easier standing up than on ones back.  I painted until 7:00 pm.  There's less magic when you do it yourself.  Time a long hot bath, a four ibuprofen, and couple fingers of Ardbeg...

Gary has it looking very deck-like by Sunday afternoon.

I added the paint.  10 July 2016

Most of the work is just visible at the northwest edges or out of sight along the north side of the deck. July 11th...

And more paint...

The white stuff is adhesive joist wrap to protect the wood. Thursday, the 13th.

Friday 14 July 2016.  Won't be long now.

Saturday the 15th; almost "sittable."  That's Gary at the far end, taking some measurements before knocking off for the day.

Planks trimmed Sunday (07/16/16)

First posts, then rails. Tuesday the 19th.

Wednesday's progress before the late morning rain (07/20/2016).  Gary has gone back to his shop to work on the steps for the rear of the deck.

More results 21 July 2016.

Friday the 22nd of July, 2016.

Steady progress, much of it invisible from this angle, but look closely at the back rail.  [24 July 2016]

And done, mostly, on the 25th of July, 2016. Just in case you're wondering what I'll be up to most evenings for the next week or so I offer a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes, "There is a time to mask, and a time to paint; there is a time to remove masking, there is a time to be done painting."  

And, with the help of a friend (who even brought lunch), the deck posts, balusters, and rails were painted as of 4:00 pm Sunday 31 July 2016.  Yee Haa! Waa Hoo!