Archive for March 2011
As I said before, I was about halfway through dinner when my phone rang; the ex was stuck with our daughters just on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass. We saddled up and headed out for the planned two hour excursion to solve the problem; John was game for hanging out because he had no plans and his SO was at work until 0100. We stopped at an auto parts store and picked up chains for the stuck vehicle; we also stopped at North Bend (home of the factory outlets!) and filled up with gas. The fill up turned out to be a fateful decision; a few miles along I90 and the snow was really coming down. The road was quickly becoming slick from the snicing; I kept letting off the gas and was down to about 35 with almost no reasonable visibility when traffic stopped at MM47 (the car was at MM66). This is where John and I sat, with hundreds of others, as I90 was closed due to dozens of spin-outs and collisions. I kept texting Arden to let her know where we were – at 2100, the radio said we’d be released around 2145. At 2230, the radio said there was no time known.
I don’t remember exactly when we were released, but I think it was a bit after 2300. The WSP was turning around anyone without chains or 4WD/AWD; the patrolman asked if I was sure I had AWD, I said I was, and he said he’d take my word for it. In the interim, the car had been moved to MM71 after a cop told them to move along Or Else; it took us a little bit to get over the pass and down to MM71, but not too long. The path was mostly single file, 30-ish MPH, snaking through all the wrecks; plenty stressful, but not too bad. John and I found the car at the exit; I had the ex and our daughters get into the van which John would drive, while I would drive the other vehicle. My plan was to get beyond the precip, which meant MM100+.
Driving from MM71 to MM100 was awful. Everyone was hammer down, even though the roads were still slick with lots of standing water; I ended up driving with The Force multiple times as I waited for gallons of slush to drain from the windshield. We made it to MM100, hit the AM/PM, tanked up, and headed into town. I got the stranded ones a room at a motel, went to Subway, got them $5 footlongs, and dropped them off at the hotel ~0100.
So, there John and I were, hungry, in Ellensburg, with 100 miles to go. We went to a truck stop, killed some steaks and coffee, and hit the road. While driving in towards Ellensburg, the WSDOT travel advisory radio said I90 would be closed for avalanche control at 0045; our fallback was to loop down to Portland and up I5. As it turned out, I90 was open; it was hammer down from MM100 to just before the pass, where we got back into some snotty precip. The road cleared up about halfway to North Bend and we cruised into Redmond. I dropped John off about 0500 or so and got home just as it was getting light out.
I could say a lot more, but in general, if one is planning on driving over mountain passes one should prepare for weather that typically comes when one is in such places.
After my ex and daughters departed, I picked up John at his new apartment and we headed to some Chinese place; we got the the intersection of 140th SB and 20th, where a Volvo was stalled in the left-hand lane. Cars were being poorly driven around it; at the next red light, I was able to get directly behind the car. I hopped out and knocked on the window to see if I could help the driver – he opened the door, I asked if he needed a push, and he exploded. The driver was having a completely uncontained freakout, screaming and hitting his dashboard and hollering the symptoms. I asked again if I could push him through the intersection at the next green light, fully prepared to bail to the McDonald’s parking lot and call the cops to get him some help. He calmed a little, said yes, I said put it in neutral and be ready. The light turned, I pushed him through the intersection with the van, and got him parked at the Safeway parking lot; this was made much easier by someone in a white Ford pickup, who ran interference to block the two lanes of traffic and give me room to match speeds etc with Mr Volvo Freakout.
After getting VF parked, I went over and asked if he needed to call someone or any further assistance; he was greatly calmed down, thanked me, and said he’d call someone.
I don’t know what I expected when I knocked on his window. I wasn’t quite in Condition White, but pretty close; this guy was very aggressive and quite clearly on or over the edge. John and I talked about it on the drive and at dinner; I guess I can’t help helping people, even if it’s dumb and I shouldn’t.
About half-way through dinner my ex called and the second part of my evening began; I shall document forthwith.
what point is there in arguing that the whole system is corrupt and that middle-class entitlements have to go on the scrap-heap along with every other big-government program? It’s going to happen anyway soon enough. A year ago the U.S. government was only taking in a third of what it needed to cover annual outlays; today it’s so much worse that individual monthly deficits are larger than the entire Bush administration’s.
One of the items which I half-discussed, half-dreamed on the drive back was the idea of a single-elimination shoot off. $40 entry fee, limit of 16 per run, five explosives each, 25 yards, I have other rules in mind. $150-300 would be retained to cover the high consumable cost (I need to do some tests to see what the actual costs would be, but somewhere in that range). Prizes would be something like first place $180, second $90, third and fourth $40; first and second would be adjusted based on costs, but win twice and you get your entry fee back, first place gets 2/3 of the remainder and second 1/3. Run four brackets on Friday evening for carbine lovers. Saturday, have the four winners single-eliminate for bragging rights; prizes for this round would be on the order of a hat or patch for first and second place bragging rights. Third and forth shoot off for a Very Special Gift.
Another event we discussed was a $5-a-shot AR15 blank-launched golf ball game, where we have a 12″ (3 MOA) gong on a stake at 375 yards. First person to knock the gong off the stake wins the pot; pot carries year to year. I like this less for several reasons, but I can see a lot of golf balls going down range. One issue is how to recover costs; take $1 of each shot to cover the blank and the (eventual) loss or damage of the golf balls? What about wind knocking the gong over? I like having a suspended gong better, but having one knocked off would be an event we could see from 400 yards. I could see putting a 55 gallon drum with a hole in the lid out there; get one in and I imagine it would ring loudly enough, but I’m not certain.
A third event we’ve discussed would be very much like the first, but would be El Prez-style. There are 12 locations where there may be explosives, four of them have explosives, single elimination. The issues here are larger; costs are much higher; I dunno. I really have a hardon for this type of event but can never get over the details. If we put out 12 targets, 8 with lime and 4 with Boomerite, how do we treat duds? Does the round stop when you detonate all 4, or does it stop when you detonate all 4 and engage all 8 others? Where is the mandatory reload – at 6? Is there a mandatory reload?
Like I said before, these are pretty cheap ideas but in the interest of cutting scope, I’m not going to put any more effort into them this year.
Joe and I wandered out to the Taj to try a bunch of new things out. First up: the new mixer. This is a small upgrade in capacity (from 4.5 to 5 quarts), but the spanky blade which scrapes the sides down should make mixing much easier. Full-bore testing was not possible due to a dead battery array, but it looks promising.
Second up: the new targets. These are 7 PLA biodegradable food containers; when part of a detonation, they reduce to fine shards that should degrade in no time. The downside is when hit without detonation, they just dump the contents. We’ll be looking for slightly more robust containers; the gain in fill speed and packing density means we can fill the Taj more fully, more quickly. I did some welding tests on the PLA (read: hit them with a butane lighter) and they welded right up. I forgot to grab some for heat gun testing, but I’m pretty sure we can find a soldering iron, a glue, or something to weld these babies shut.
Third: we discussed some ways to make shooting more interesting; I’ve undertaken a project, funded by Boomershoot entrants, to make some unique active target holders that will be pretty much disposable. We’ll see how it goes; time is short. We discussed a couple other cheap, fast projects but are trying to cut scope before the shoot.
Fourth: we were talking about going back to two days of blasting, two days of clinic; we could do clinic-blast-clinic-blast, or clinic-clinic-blast-blast. There are good arguments both ways: Gene’s steel is heavy to hump up and down the hills, so CCBB is easier on his crew. CBCB would give people taking the full tour a chance to screw up Friday, work the clinic Saturday, then level up Sunday. What it will take to support this is some other project I hinted at earlier, and that I’ve been given an order-of-magnitude budget to scope out: a constant-process mixer. There is no way it will happen for this year, but perhaps next?
Fifth: a possible change which will be discussed at dinner this year is possibly very exciting; if you want to hear about it, buy me a Guinness.
Sixth: one of the trees next to the Taj was hit by lightning and burned. We’re quite fortunate it didn’t result in a larger fire; in summer, it would have been Bad News.
Lastly, we got there ~0915 at it was slightly above freezing at the Taj (I think it was 36 or 38). Walking in from the road wasn’t too bad; I punched through a couple times, but the snow was almost like cement. As long as I slide-stepped, I was good; after three hours of cooking in the sun, though, the walk back was a different story. I was punching through up to my knees, dropping all my shit and generally flailing around comically. I don’t think I took a step on the route back where I didn’t break through. I consumed mass doses of Vitamin Aleve and the swelling in my right knee/ankle is down, but I can tell I’ll be stiff this week.
I’ll bet these guys learned a valuable lesson: never call the cops when you find a bomb. No, wait, maybe it’s “call the cops every time you see something”. Whatever; firing people for opening what turned out to be a bomb is the wrong move.
This week (after shipping) has been weird. After a couple years on projects that never shipped, actually pushing five or six somethings out the door was stressful and enjoyable. Here’s to shipping software!
Furthermore, coordinated shipping of five products and the server to support them was a first (for me). Huzzah!
Joe and I were planning, what else, the next shoot when I had an idea. I would auction (the night before) an envelope with a sign that said “buying this will result in a nicer shoot for you”; during the dinner, I’d mention to everyone that the red targets were special in some way. The purchaser of the envelope would get a note telling them that the red boxes were duds, or empty, or otherwise not worth engaging.
After much laughter the idea was set aside, as I’m sure people would find some other target to engage, and I am a slow moving one at best.
There will be (if I am able to get everything arranged) some special targets, though. More to come – if not in 2011, in 2012.
It’s MYCD time at Microsoft; counting last night, I’ve talked with four current Microsofties about the MYCD blues. My advice has been variations on this theme; some with the cursing, some were a lot more gentle. It’s the same thing I’ve been saying on IRC for years.
Everything I would have said in the comments on this ill-considered bit of writing has already been said; I direct you to it mainly to alert non-Freakonomics readers to the party.
Fritz3 says:I will be more interested when the Texas legislature votes to allow the public to carry concealed weapons into Texas state buildings, including the governor’s mansion, the capitol building, and the legislative chambers.What’s good for the goose…
aubrey says:Sorry, snark failure. The Texas Statehoue already allows carry. In fact you don’t have to go through the metal detector if you have a carry permit