31 August 2012


I will keep harping on it until my dying day.

Learn some simple repair skills.

They save thousands of dollars.

This very morning, because I know how to solder, I fixed a broken wire in my rudder pedals and don't have to purchase new ones.  Saved about $150 including the shipping.


That savings means I can continue to bring you screenshots like this!

Don't forget, Kilted to Kick Cancer.

Kilted To Kick Cancer!

Hit the link and donate!  Be generous, it's for a great cause.

Repeat of last year's picture, more pics to come!

30 August 2012

Things In Common

I am not, in general, a revolver person.  I have lots of reasons for liking semi-autos over wheel guns, but I admit to a fascination with them.

What we have pictured is a Colt Anaconda in .45 Colt and a Smith and Wession 640-3 in .357 Magnum.

They've got some features in common.  Both are stainless and both wear grips from Hogue.

Except for being revolvers that's about where the commonality ends.  Much more could be said about how they differ.  Barrel length, caliber, capacity, cylinder latch, cylinder rotation, hammer, manufacturer, sights and stock color are all different.

Heck, even the reason I bought them is completely different.

The S&W was purchased because I'd rather liked an acquaintance's 642, as did The Lovely Harvey (who bought a 640 as well).  I reasoned that I liked the hammerless J-frame, but didn't care for the alloy frame and the .38 Special +P chambering.  The 640 is heavier, .357 magnum, and doesn't have dedicated hate groups on forums complaining about the finish eroding off the aluminum; because there is no aluminum!  I prefer robust over lightness.  I carry the little J-frame often and have a good many rounds through it.  It's not a Snubby-From-Hell, but it's got a stout recoil.

The Colt was purchased to replace a gun that was sold to pay bills.  The original gun was a 4" in .45 Colt.  That gun was purchased because our gamemaster proposed making ourselves as characters in GURPS and we'd be dropped into "a world" with whatever we'd managed to cart up to his apartment in one load.  He'd also been dropping hints about the old west so I figured I should get a gun that I would be able to feed from 1873 on.  At the time I didn't know you could load .44 Russian (1870) into a .44 Magnum.  At any rate selling my 45 Anaconda was always a deep regret sell and buying a .44 Magnum 4" didn't scratch the itch.  I was unable to find another 4" .45 so I settled for a 6".  I also rationalized that it's a superior gun to most anything from the time period.  Stainless is more durable than bluing or plating.  Double action is nice to have and it's safe to carry with all six holes filled.  The sights also tromp all over the little notch in the hammer of an SAA.  The single action trigger on this example is nearly telepathic in its break.

28 August 2012

No A Block Per Se

When 2,000 words of science fiction for my new space world just fall out onto the keyboard I discover I don't really have much juice left for blogging.

Happy Blogoversary to Her Nibs Tamara, Queen of Snark.

Her blog is just a week older than my beginnings on LiveJournal and it's damn clear who is the better writer.

26 August 2012

Isaac To N'awlins?

Gods I hope so!

New Orleans needs another hurricane for two reasons.

First to remind people to not build or rebuild so close to the ocean below sea level unless you are Dutch.

Second to punish those idiots for reelecting Ray Nagin after he made such a hash of Katrina.

My Blood Boils

"We chose to go to the Moon in 1962, and seven years after making the choice we heard “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” With 1962 technology. With primitive computers, unreliable rocket motors, with little understanding of the Lunar surface and less understanding of space weather. What is it that we cannot do now? But we must choose to do it." Jerry Pournelle

We.  Must.  Choose.


Yesterday I tossed Kaylee in the back on the way to have dinner with Marv.

His sister has DX'd her gas grill and was giving away a full tank of propane.

About halfway home I realized that I was driving around with a full tank of propane and an AR with two guns on my person as well.

What would a cop have made of that if I'd gotten pulled over?

25 August 2012

Minor Sense Of Accomplishment

Changed the oil in The Precious.  Greased the rear outer tie-rod joints too (the only grease zerks on the whole damn car).

A whopping $57.75 for 6.1 quarts of Mobil 1 5W30 and a Purolator Pure One PL12222 filter.

That seems like a bit much until you factor in that the shops around here charge twice as much for synthetic oil and will add $100 labor bringing the total to just under $250.

Doing it myself saves money, time and I know the job is done correctly.

Touched The Face...

Neil Armstrong has passed on.


h/t Sebastian

Snakes In The MFing House!

I caught this little guy transiting the bedroom hallway.

He appears to be a juvenile eastern racer.  The Wikipedia entry seems to agree.  We have a lot of the brownchin variety around here so it makes sense to find a baby or two.

Very agressive little fellow, was striking at me constantly.

How a rifling machine works

23 August 2012

Buh Bye!

Goodbye Facebook!

What a wonderful tool for connecting with long lost friends and discovering that you can no longer stand to be in even the remotest contact with them.

22 August 2012


I was reading this.

It inspired me to think of an additional reason the kill count goes down when an armed citizen is firing back.

The thug now has to return fire on ONE target because if they ignore our citizen they will not get to keep shooting at other people.

Couple that with the fact that many CCW holders are damn good shots and it tips the scales pretty hard.  Especially considering what mediocre shots most cops are.

20 Years

It has been 20 years since the FBI didn't do anything to me either, where's my damn check?

Aluma Black!

The trust information on my SBR's was left in the white because it was too expensive to send  them out to be anodized just for two small lines of text.

Marv reminded me of a product called Aluma-Black.

So I borrowed some of his supply and applied some to the bare aluminum of the lowers.

It smells really bad when it's bubbling away, but it works!

Now Kaylee and Sabrina look like they came from the factory with my trust info on them.

Interestingly, the color it takes matches both Kaylee's black A2 style finish and Sabrina's XM gray finish.

I have to say I am pleased with the results!

21 August 2012


Is "legitimate rape"the same thing as "rape rape"?

20 August 2012

That's Good News Too

It's nice to see the Vehicles expansion includes specs on an engine that's air breathing in atmo and water spitting in vacuum.

I'd wondered why you couldn't do that, now I have genuine rules.

It also means I don't have to carry two separate drives for earth to orbit and LEO to dock.

New Research

The high specific impulse drive I'd fallen in love with is likely to be technically impossible with the drive masses I wanted.

So I've scaled my expectations back tad.

Lots of coasting from now on instead of thrusting and at lower accelerations while thrusting.

Back to using the straight GURPS Vehicles 2nd Edition numbers...

Good news for my needs is noticing I'd bought the two expansion books for Veh 2e.

High capacity antimatter storage makes the antimatter thermal rocket a tenable choice.

One of the better realistic drives is the fusion pulse drive, but the nuclear fuel pellets are needed in volume and not readily made in the field.  Since this is an exploration ship needing a fuel depot seems a bad idea.

The normal fusion rocket and antimatter thermal engines use water for reaction mass, and that stuff is just about everywhere.

Optimized fusion and antimatter-pion drives use hydrogen for reaction mass, which is also everywhere, but the delta-v and thrust available to the optimized fusion drive mean it's not going to dive a gas giant for it.

My practical choices are the fusion or antimatter thermal drives.  The exploration profile would be to boost out of system with half the reaction mass, jump into the Oort cloud of the new system and harvest some water from a comet.  Charge the jump drive and then jump deeper into the system.

I am becoming more satisfied with my design the more I play with it.

Next thing to make is some message torps so we can send messages back home.

19 August 2012

Crimson Trace Challenge Part 1

Marv has pony'd up for a Crimson Trace Laserguard LG-492 for his SIG-Sauer P238.

We're car guys so installation was completely intuitive and didn't require even glancing at the instructions.  Except for the battery.  Despite having a degree in electrical engineering, Marv installed the battery in upside down.  A 1/3N battery's + end looks like the - end on a AA so...

Here are some pics!

The adjustment screws were VERY touchy.  At the whopping 20' range of across the garage the slightest twitch of the allen wrench moved the dot 1/4".  The good news is that's just fine for the ranges one would expect this sort of thing to be most useful.

Part 2 will be a range report.  No timeline so be patient.

18 August 2012

Deep In The Heart (Clap Clap Clap Clap) Of Texas

A couple of screenshots of planes in VF-202 Superheat markings.  Sadly the game doesn't have their markings for the F-8H they flew until 1976.

17 August 2012

AR Barbie!

The CMMG lower parts kit I got for the new lower is MUCH crisper than Kaylee's

So I've swapped the hammer, trigger, disconnect and associated springs from one to the other.

Changed Kaylee back to an A2 pistol grip from the Lone Star Stowaway2 as well.

We're NASA and We Know It (Mars Curiosity)

Just because I've been hitting the space stuff pretty hard.

We Have To Pass It To Find Out What's In It

We have to pass it to find out what's in it.

We've had a lot of fun with that.

Did you know it's literally true?

That massive law is just that, the law.

Before the regulators can get to work, you need to pass that law.  No law, no regulation.

No regulations, no way to see HOW the law will be enforced and affect things.

This terrifies me more than almost anything, including spiders.

Paradigm Shift

For decades I have been playing Traveller.  I started with the little black books in 1979!

I've converted it twice to GURPS 3rd Edition and once to GURPS 4th Edition.

I've played the official GURPS 3rd Edition conversion.

For all of its miraculous drive technology, Traveller is trapped in the '70's as far as conceptual technology goes.

Computers are gigantic.

Traveller is not alone in missing the advances in computer technology, science fiction as a whole missed it.

Medicine is recognizable.  For something set 5,000 years from now there hasn't been much advance.  Genetics in particular are more advanced today than in the Traveller universe.

There's no mention of cyberwear at all because nobody'd thought of it yet in 1977.

For a long time my space worlds have been clinging to that Traveller concept.  I limited the tech to conform to the comfortable norms that were established in those little black books.

Throwing away the miraculous drives has pushed through a membrane and allowed me to consider concepts and technologies that have risen since the original publishing.

It's a whole new world.  Literally.  I, for one, welcome our insect overlords.

16 August 2012

My Head Officially Hurts

I have figured out a plausible maneuver drive for my space world!

I noticed that the rockets I was looking at were all thermal drives.  That means there was a heat source (fusion) used to heat up a reaction mass (hydrogen or water).

Exhaust velocity is a little limited.

I did more digging into the theoretical and found that a drive that released just fused helium from the containment field was possible and gives insane specific impulse.  Exhaust velocity is about 6% c.

That's how it operates in high impulse mode.  In high thrust mode you dump a lot more reaction mass on the furnace and sacrifice impulse for gees.

The amusing thing is I was trying very hard to emulate the ship technology from Steven Gallacci's Erma Felna universe and at every turn when I dig I find exactly how well he'd done his research.

Realistic Drives Suck!

Millions of pounds of thrust and just barely pulling 0.39g and can't even do it for a week.

And this is using fusion to spit mass out the back.

Decent delta-V though.

Damn you Loren K Wiseman for destroying my expectations!

I have also learned that specific impulse is God.

14 August 2012

Video Reinacting

I found this photo from 1977 of VF-194 intercepting and escorting a Tu-95

So I set out to make as close a shot as I could with Strike Fighters 2.  I don't think I did too bad.

This is the best angle, but the Bear hadn't gotten over water yet.


Got to indicate my choices in the Republican primary for the state/local elections.

I was wearing my "I'm not carrying a concealed firearm. (or am I?)" t-shirt.

That got a comment from every one of the poll workers.  "Are you?"

I was not.  My carry gun sat in the car where it's allowed to be and not in my pocket where it isn't.

That whole law-abiding thing, you know.

The guy on the door has a photographic memory!  I drove the Biscayne last time and he asked where it was.  He's got a 95 Impala SS and we chatted about that for a bit.

On the way home the radio talking idiot mentioned the primary and how that it wasn't important unless you were 65 or older.  He then went on to hope that none of his listeners were 65 or older.  All I could think was, "good, discourage your liberal youth audience from voting."

13 August 2012

Harder Than It Looks

This is an F-4J from VF-194 escorting a Soviet Tu-95 Bear.  The paint scheme is from aroun 1976-77.

In the flight sim, it's not easy to fly in formation and getting this lined up took about ten minutes of jockeying my position and then waiting for the pilot's head to finally scan over to be looking at the bomber like he would be while flying in formation.  By coincidence, the RIO is also looking!


I am something of a stickler for using the correct terms.

I don't say clip when I mean magazine.

I don't say pedophile when I mean pederast.

Gaming is responsible, but it was really rammed home while I was in the Army.

Each tank has four bent t-shaped dealies that you pin into loops on the hull that you attach tie-down chains to.  It's called an anchor.

The NSN of this part is ONE number different from the anchor for a Navy frigate, Knox class we were told.

How did we come to be told?

We ordered a tank anchor to replace a broken one.

What arrived was a flat-bed 18 wheeler, four bemused Navy personnel and a ship's anchor!

We got it straightened out, in fact it would have been straightened out over the phone if we hadn't been in the field when they were trying to confirm.  Without confirmation they fudged and sent it out on the off chance that we needed it.

Ain't the military wonderfully dense sometimes?

Next time someone tells you that bothering to get the right terminology doesn't matter, remember my anchor.

There are lots of places where precision in speaking or writing matter a very great deal.  Getting meters and yards confused can lead to some very large errors very quickly.  Sure seem almost the same, don't they?

Some terms could be interchanged at will except for the costs associated with them.

"Assault weapon" is in this category.  There's a lot of people who are into guns nowadays who likely weren't gun owners or politically aware back in early nineties when that term was coined.  "Assault weapon" is an anti-gun term.  They coined it knowing that people would make the connection with "assault rifle."  Assault rifle was defined as "selective fire, magazine fed shoulder arm firing an intermediate power cartridge."  Compare that definition to "assault weapon" as defined in the AWB.  They were trying to get people to think "machine-gun" when they saw anything that shared cosmetic features with specific models of genuine assault rifles.

Much effort was expended to correct the impression the antis were trying to create with that term.  So much effort in fact that there's a lot of resentment towards new gun people getting it wrong.

I know that I've ranted on this before; but consider this:  When you let your opponent define the terms of the debate you've lost it.  Assault weapon is a term meant to sow confusion and eliminate precision about what is being discussed.

Always remember, if you cannot say what you mean you cannot mean what you say.  If what you said can be taken two ways, and one of them can be used against you; you will be presented as saying that no matter what you meant.

Line of the Day

"Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head."

Mike Ehrmantraut

12 August 2012

What I Did Yesterday

Tools are investments.

Knowledge is power.

Combined they save money.

What I did yesterday was change out the timing belt on The Lovely Harvey's ride.

Including tools it was only a $300 deal.  The stealership wants $750 for the exact same task.

It's not an easy job at all.  In fact it's a pain in the ass.  The timing belt is under several layers of other parts and those all need to come off to get to it.

Why would I change this part, since nothing was broken?

Preventive maintenance is something else that saves money.  The engine is what is known as an interference design.  That means that if the valves are open, the pistons will hit them.  The timing belt turns the cam and that closes the valve moments before the piston slaps into them.

If the belt breaks and the valves get smacked, you are looking at a new valve, minimum.  More than likely it means a total rebuild of the engine.  That's a lot more expensive than $300.

Other preventative measures taken were to replace the timing belt tensioner and water pump.  The have similar lifespans as the belt and are already exposed by the disassembly process that lets you get to the belt.

A bonus PM item is the all new coolant from draining the system!

I also replaced the alternator/air conditioning and power steering belts.  The alternator belt was just about dead when we got there so I saved The Lovely Harvey a call to AAA and some time stuck on the side of the road.

If I could remember where I put the damn code to reactivate the damn radio that goes into security mode when you disconnect the battery, I'd be golden!

10 August 2012

Three Prong Comparison

As I mentioned before I bought a Wilson Combat Accu-Tac flash hider for Dottie.

Charlotte sports an earlier iteration of the three prong flash-hider; so I decided that a comparison study was in order.


 Left to right.  Standard Birdcage or "A1" flash-hider; Three-Prong, Accu-Tac.

This is just a visual comparison.  I have yet to get Dottie out to the range for a shooting impression.  Two differences stand out right away between the three-prongs; first is attachment, second is the length.  The original is prevented from walking off with a lock-washer.  The Wilson is contoured so that muzzle gasses push on it so that even if it does loosen, firing will serve to tighten it back up.  We'll see.

For the others though, the three-prong is a better flash hider than the birdcage that replaces it at actually suppressing the flash with mil-spec M193 ammo.  There's no visible flash in dusk conditions with the three prong and a little kernel of orange flame contained in the center of the birdcage.  There is not much difference, but there is some.

I expect the trend to continue with the 6.8 hider.  The Troy Medieval muzzle brake did a pretty good job at flash suppression, but there was some leakage around the slots because, hey; it's a muzzle brake.

Earth To Orbit

This is the sticky wicket of all space.

Getting up there in the first place.

The first thing running against you is the gravity.  If your drive makes 1g you sit there making noise.

The Saturn V stack made barely 1.1g at ignition, but got lighter as it used fuel so acceleration increased as it went on its way.

But we don't want to use staging because we're gaming a sci-fi world and the paradigm there is 100% reusable.

Now, you don't need more than 1g acceleration to get off the ground if you have wings.  A 747 sure as heck doesn't have that much acceleration (0.27g at max load at sea level) and they certainly can fly.  An F-15C can pull 1.12g with a typical loadout.  Air breathing engines have an advantage in that they don't carry their reaction mass onboard, but you get decreasing thrust as you gain altitude.  And because you need air, you can't use them to get to orbit.

Atmo is a drag.  Literally.  When you watch NASA launch something you hear about "max Q" that's when the air is pushing as hard as it ever will during the launch.  In some cases the vehicle will throttle back to keep from damaging itself.

Using wings means you can get off the ground with less thrust, but it also means spending more time in the atmosphere and using more fuel to get out.

Using wings means you need to have a runway and that will have a limiting effect on the size of your vehicle.

Pretty much every rocket initially goes straight up before pitching to get clear of the worst of it.

Let's take our F-15 and give it engines that don't need air.  1g of our acceleration is eaten up canceling the pull of Earth leaving us with just 0.12g to affect our velocity.  How long does it take us to get to escape velocity?  We need to get to 11.2 km/s.  Math again: Velocity is acceleration multiplied by time. So with an effective acceleration of 0.12g the equation is t=112,000m/(0.12*9.81m/s).  On the order of 2.6 hours.

It's actually not as bad as all that.  You can pitch over and start utilizing more of your thrust to accelerate in exchange for a shallower climb.

Traveller maneuver drives include three miracles.  First is the reactionless thrust itself.  Second is that it seems to move a volume and is unaffected by the mass of the vehicle.  Third is that it appears to be unaffected by gravity.  GURPS: Vehicles called that third item contragrav.

That means our Traveller Type-A Free Merchant with a Maneuver-1 drive can apply its entire 1g to acceleration.  That means it can outrun our F-15 to escape velocity taking just under 20 minutes to get there.

Harder science fiction would use a more F-15 like vehicle.  Oh, acceleration also increases as fuel is consumed.  An empty F-15C would pull 1.78g as the fuel ran out.

Albedo is harder than Traveller, but it's still running some miracle.  The fusion thrusters shown in canon are mentioned pulling 20m/ss and doing so for days at a time.  That's a wee bit more than we think you can get fusion to do with realistic fuel consumption; but it might be plausible.  I have an excellent drawing I need to scale and see what the volumes of their sample scout ship come to and extrapolate the drive from that.  At present the best numbers I have for a realistic fusion drive are from GURPS: Vehicles; and I don't trust those because a 135hp small block Chevy is a much smaller and lighter motor than a 350hp SBC where in the real world they are pretty much identical.  Their earth to orbit vehicle is called an aerodyne, and those things are shown thrusting at 8 or 9g.  Plus have thrust vectoring for hover.

The fuel consumption vs acceleration curve needs to be plotted out so it's easily usable.  There's math that will do that.  I always fudged and calculated the acceleration at 100%, 90%, 80% etc. fuel.  You can throw that on a graph and get the ball-park easily.

Oh, acceleration is a nice simple equation.  It's thrust over mass and gives g.

Are we bored yet?

09 August 2012


A while ago I issued this "challenge".

I've been informed that this was exactly the wrong way to go about it.  But it's a real challenge.  Can Crimson Trace win someone like me over?

It's an active emitter, that has the potential of leading someone right to me.  I've played with a couple of the S&W grips and something I noticed is how often the activation button gets tapped accidentally.  I am not certain that this concern matters.  For where a snubby is useful there's little worry about losing concealment because the target is almost certainly already in visual contact.  For a rifle, what is a laser doing that a red-dot isn't, besides giving my position away?

I notice that there's a laser warning sticker.  These things aren't eye safe, are they?  I know it seems a silly concern when you're pointing a gun at someone, but most defensive firearms uses don't involve gunfire.  It would suck to be sued by a deterred criminal because he was blinded by your laser (or blinds himself with a laser pointer and blames you).

I have found very little out there addressing my concerns.

I issued the challenge the way I did because I don't expect Crimson Trace to offer me free product nor do I have any pull with the big guys.  I can say anything I want because it doesn't change the outcome. But if you think about it, if they were to win over someone who disagrees philosophically with the idea of their product it would carry more weight than a positive review from someone who was apt to buy it on their own anyway.  Example: Weer'd's opinion on firearm ownership has a bit more heft because he used to be an anti.

I am ambivalent about getting free stuff.  Would I remain objective about something that someone gave me?  I don't know.  I do notice the two reviews that stick in my head are both from gratis product.  I don't recall seeing a "I paid for this, it rocks".  Just because I don't recall it, doesn't mean it's not there.

I don't have funding to review much of anything otherwise let alone doing comparisons between similar objects.


Something at a commenter once got wrong about something I posted back on LiveJournal.

I am not posting here to discuss an issue.

I am hoping to discover solutions to the problems I talk about, or if they are unsolvable; mitigations to the problem.

I tolerate, "you're incorrect, here's why" much better than devil's advocacy.  Devil's advocacy always seems to lead to an unending argument with the much loathed moving goal-posts.

You may notice that my blog is rather poorly sourced.  Well, it's not a doctoral thesis.  It's just my educated opinion and I reserve the right to change my mind about anything I talk about.  Perhaps even from being convinced.

If you're trying to convince me I am wrong, please do so in your own words and don't copy-paste someone whom you think is spearing me.  I ask this because I am typing this all out, and the damn volume from copying is hard to absorb and rebut.  It rapidly degrades into a case where I don't read the reply because it's too dang long to digest.

Kilted To Kick Cancer

It's starting soon.

Help out, it's worth it.

It's sort of a contest, so donate early, donate often and check back here often.

Hello To The Army Information Systems Command!


Judging by the amount of time spent and the number of pages viewed, someone there is actually reading the blog!  This is just one detail of about five in-clicks from the same IP.

Watch out Weer'd, they're reading your blog too!

I wonder if it's anyone I know.  There's a Colonel Foley out there I knew, but he should be on the air defense artillery side.


It has been 67 years since anyone has popped a nuke in anger.

I pray that number only gets bigger and we can always refer to Bock's Car's work as "The Last Atomic Bomb Dropped In Anger."

08 August 2012

Space And Gaming

I mentioned before that space is a bit large.  The brain tends to skid off the distances and not comprehend.

The next problem in space is all the math.  There's no escaping it unless you're going to handwave a lot of it away.  Do enough hand waving and people stop recognizing it as a space world.

To get the answers you need for the players you don't really even need complex math, just some algebra.  Much of the work on the calculus end has been done for us and gelled down into some nice simple equations.

Some things that remain complicated are the amount of acceleration as fuel and/or reaction mass is consumed, delta v and specific impulse.  Since most moderately realistic space worlds are going to have ships which are mostly fuel, and have very small amounts of thrust; those numbers all matter and you need to know how to calculate them.  Again, it's been gelled down for you.

Traveller gets around some of this by having its maneuver drive (apparently) move a volume at given acceleration rather than apply a thrust.  Inertialess drives are common enough in fiction.

Albedo (Erma Felna) doesn't shy away from it at all.  The ships are at least 60% tankage and the drive is a fusion thruster.  Albedo is the hardest science fiction setting I've ever run.  And the most difficult.

Somewhere in here I should point out that gaming is made of math.  Even diceless games have probability based systems to do conflict resolution.  Rock-Paper-Scissors is still probability and statistics.

A great site for seeing the reality of space is Atomic Rocket.  He's good with the hand holding.

Learn the math.  Everything important involves math at some point and refusing to learn it is accepting a secondary role in the universe.  Even if it's as simple as, "did I get enough change?"

You don't need precision down to a thousand decimal places for a space game.  But your answers need to be plausible.  1g (ONE GEE!) of acceleration gets you from Earth to Jupiter in how long?  The players will want that answer because there's always something they want to do that requires some time being run off.  Is it enough time to learn or upgrade a skill?

The answer is in the old Traveller books and some editions of GURPS Space.  Time (T) = 2 x Square Root of Distance (D) / Acceleration (A).  In spreadsheet notation: T=2*((D/A)^(1/2)); note that this assumes a turn over and deceleration to the destination.

How long does it take to get to Jupiter at 1g?  It depends.  Let's ignore orbital mechanics because with 1g on tap we don't have to deal with Hohmann transfer orbits.  Jupiter is between 5.46 and 4.95 AU from the sun at any given moment with a semi-major axis of 5.20 AU.  Earth is between 1.02 and 0.98 AU with a semi-major axis of 1.00.  That puts Jupiter between 6.48 and 3.93 AU from Earth.

That formula is looking for inputs in seconds, meters and meters/second.

1 AU is 149,597,870,000m
1g is 9.81m/ss

With my handy spreadsheet I get....  628703.24 seconds for the 6.48 AU.  Divide by 60 for minutes, then 60 for hours then 24 for days... we get 7.28 days when Jupiter is as far from earth as possible (at opposition).  There's a pesky Sun in the way of the trip...  When Earth and Jupiter are closest it takes a mere 5.67 days.  A Traveller maneuver drive is good for 28 days at this acceleration.  Note: that assumes constant acceleration for the whole trip.  One can get the same travel time with higher accelerations at each end with coasting in between burns too.

I mention 1g being impressive because it is.  It's also entirely unnecessary to have such high accelerations to just get to Jove.  Even a tenth of a g gets you there fairly fast, 17.92 days.

Where you need high acceleration is to get out of deep gravity wells, like Earth.

Take the moon launch.  The Saturn V was pulling just over a g at engine start and 4g just as it ran out of fuel, 150 seconds later.  This acceleration was mostly up and away from the planet to get out of the thick atmosphere which was applying deceleration in the form of drag on the vehicle.  The second stage peaks just under 2g and the third doesn't even pull 0.75g.  6,200,000 lb. lifts off, less than 250,000 lb. gets into orbit.  And not just fuel is abandoned; the first and second stages are discarded.

The above graph was derived from the Flight Evaluation Report for AS-510 and displays how the acceleration of the vehicle changed throughout the boost, from about 1g on leaving the launch pad to weightlessness 11½ minutes later. The key events in the graph are:
  1. Launch with ignition of the S-IC. Note how the acceleration rapidly rises with increasing engine efficiency and reduced propellant load.
  2. Cut-off of the centre engine of the S-IC.
  3. Outboard engine cut-off of the S-IC at a peak of 4g.
  4. S-II stage ignition. Note the reduced angle of the graph for although the mass of the first stage has been discarded, the thrust of the S-II stage is nearly one tenth of the final S-IC thrust.
  5. Cut-off of the centre engine of the S-II.
  6. Change in mixture ratio caused by the operation of the PU valve. The richer mixture reduces the thrust slightly.
  7. Outboard engine cut-off of the S-II at a peak of approximately 1.8g.
  8. S-IVB stage ignition. Note again the reduced angle of the graph caused by the thrust being cut by a fifth.
  9. With the cut-off of the S-IVB's first burn, the vehicle is in orbit with zero acceleration. 
The 4g reached during boost is not the highest that will experienced during the mission. Entry through the Earth's atmosphere decelerates the Command Module by about 6½g.
That's the Apollo 8 acceleration curves from here.

Isn't space FUN?

This sort of thing is why Star Trek has a transporter.  It's why Albedo has smaller shuttles to make the trip and why Traveller has the insanity drive.

And it's ALL math.

There's more too.  I'll probably talk about getting to orbit in a plausible and playable way.

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You

Oh, Blog...

I just can't stay mad at you.

07 August 2012


When I am trying to be funny, everyone gets mad at me.

When I am trying to be serious, everyone laughs.

When I am trying to explain, nobody listens.

I really suck at this communication thing.

See everyone in two months!


Is It The Destination Or The Journey

Once upon a time I had a Mini-14.

It was a bog standard 6.4 lb. wood stocked 18.5" 1:10 barrel with a plain muzzle and a five round magazine.

But it was my "assault rifle".

I got it for a whopping $375 used at Jacobson's Gun Center in Story City, Iowa.  In 1991.

Because it was my "assault rifle" I needed to add some features.  Bear in mind that this was a bit before the assault rifle ban.  What I really wanted was a Galil (too expensive at $1,200), not a Mini-14; so I set out to make one...

First I changed the stock out for a polymer one with a metal folding stock.  $89.

Then I bought a bunch of USA brand 30 round magazines.  $14.30 each.

Then I tore off the front sight and replaced it with a combination front sight, flash-hider, muzzle brake.  $37.50.

Then I added a sling stud to the front of the stock and a Harris bipod.  $59.66.

All told I turned it into a 9.5 lb. gun.  At least it was lighter than the 11.3 lb. Galil!

A 9.5 lb. gun that would not hold a zero.  That had trouble hitting a coffee can at 50 yards.

Must be the sights!  So I bought an Aimpoint 1000 and a B-Square scope mount for it.  $270.

Now I have a 10.3 lb. gun!  That won't hold a zero, that has trouble hitting a coffee can at 50 yards.  That cost $905 including tax, $616 before optics.  A Colt AR-15 Match Target HBAR was $932 new at the time and was a mere 8 lbs.

I have a couple of AR's that don't cost that much and certainly don't weigh that much.  I didn't manage to make a Galil out of a Mini-14 and when I was finished I'd managed to ruin all of the good attributes of it.

By way of comparison, Dottie is all decked out modern style.  She ran me $2,486 including optics and light ($1,550 for a bare rifle).  She's 9.5 lbs all-up.  No wandering zero, can easily kill a coffee can at 200 yards repeatedly.  No bipod though...  But an unfair comparison considering that she's also in 6.8.

A better comparison would be The Lovely Harvey's Kevina.  $1,163 for the bare rifle plus $459 for the EOTech and $200 for the light.  STILL no bipod.  The best comparison might be her bare bones KISS carbine, Cheyenne, for $692.

Kevina, top.  Cheyenne, bottom.

Seems like a bunch more doesn't it?  $616 in 1991 is $973.48 in today's money.

06 August 2012


Rocket equations and such are hard enough.  But that's the real world.

What I am talking about is writing space fiction or running a space themed role-playing game; like Traveller.

Space kicks your ass.  The closer you stick to reality the more difficult it gets.

The first thing that hits you is distances.  To quote Douglas Adams, "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space."

Let's talk about that for a bit.

Most of us can internalize how far 250 miles is.  You've probably even driven that far without stopping.  Just a bit more than three and half hours on the interstate.  You might even think of that as a long trip.

That's all the further away that the International Space Station gets.  In space terms it's practically TOUCHING the earth.

By way of comparison, the moon is about 233,000 miles from here; give or take since it's in an elliptical orbit and will get closer and farther away.  Yes, the moon is about 1,000 times as far away as the space station.  Think about that road trip; 3,500 hours at interstate speed.  Light takes a whole second to make the trip, and light is FAST.

When you get past the moon we stop using miles and kilometers and start using astronomical units.  1 AU is the average distance from the earth to the sun; it's about 93,000,000 miles.  151 YEARS at interstate speed.  It's also just a bit over eight minutes for light to make the trip.  The moon is 0.00257AU from Earth.

Jupiter is about 5.2AU from the sun.  Do that math.  Long ways isn't it?

Let's take a bit of a side trip.  Hauling three men from the earth to the moon and back took a 300 foot tall rocket and only the very tippy top came back with them.  That part would easily fit in your garage.  It went a bit faster than interstate speeds and makes the trip in about a week.  And that's the way it had to be done.  Going farther will require much larger rockets or much slower trips.  0.00257 AU in a week is 31 YEARS to Jupiter and that assumes the shortest the trip can be.

Well before we leave the solar system we start thinking in terms of how long it takes light to get there.  The recent Mars landing took place 7 light minutes from here.  That means it takes light seven minutes to make the trip.  If you try to have a conversation there will be 14 minute gaps in the replies.

Pluto is 39.264 AU, 3,649,934,370 miles or 5.45 light hours.

On this scale our sun is a teeny little dot.  865,373.71 miles in diameter seems very small now doesn't it?

Most of you have heard of a light year?  That's how far light goes in a year.  5,878,600,000,000 miles.  It's a unit of distance, not time.  A parsec is similar, 3.26 light years.  19,174,000,000,000 miles.  Han Solo is an idiot.

Notice how these zeros are adding up?

Alpha Centauri is our closest neighbor.  It's 4.366 light years away.  25,665,967,600,000 miles.  Just 41,855,784.41 years on the interstate.  Hominids have not been around that long!

A gaming note, lots of the stock Traveller ships have a "jump-1" drive.  A jump 1 drive can go a parsec in a week but no farther.  You may notice that Alpha Centauri is farther than a jump-1 ship can travel.

Now the mind-fuck.  Remember how big the solar system seems?  Scale the sun down to the size of a grain of sand.  Now, let's build a scale model of the galaxy with a grain of sand for each star.  Guess how big our model is.

It just barely fits inside the solar system!


I am not even going to get into how far Andromeda is from here, and it's a bigger galaxy than our home one.


Learn everything you can about how the universe works.

Do not shy away from what you learn because it is difficult or unpleasant.

The universe does not care that you are ignorant of its ways and it will punish you for ignoring its rules.

Curiosity Has Landed

I watched it leave and I just watched the live feed from Cal Tech for the landing.  Well, "live" since there's a bit of a delay from Mars to here because the speed of light is beggared by long distances.

05 August 2012


67 years ago a B-29A, Enola Gay, dropped Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima.

This was the first ever use of an atomic weapon in war and only the second atomic detonation ever.

The detail oriented may notice that this is posted on August 5th, but Hiroshima is 13 hours ahead of me.

03 August 2012

Save The Ta-Ta's

Finally got the pink stocks that came with my donation to breast cancer research charity.

They were offering your choice of grips for your S&W revolver, grips for your Colt revolver, or a furniture set for your AR.

Originally they were going to buy the S&W grips from the S&W's supplier; Uncle Mike's.  It seems that Uncle Mikes no longer makes grips and it's been embarrassing for them to track everyone down and see if Hogue's pink stock would be OK.  This has taken them almost a year!

Camps, of course, formed over the matter.  Many folks were saying, "don't care if I ever get them, the donation was the point."  My camp was, "the donation was the main point, but send me grips when you get it sorted out."  Then there was the "You promised us genuine S&W stocks and you WILL get them!"

They tried really hard to make it happen for everyone, communication was pretty good about it.  Eventually they had a vote via email and you could take the Hogues now or wait until S&W filled their large order.  I took the Hogues just to end the matter.

This is my summer carry gun, by the way.

02 August 2012


Charlotte is a clone of an M16, model R604.  More specifically she's a clone of an early M16.  Why?  It's actually kind of an obscure variation.  It was made concurrently with the XM16E1 and M16A1 (both are model R603).  Both the M16 and XM16E1 were improvements on the model R602.  This is the rifle that the Air Force asked for without the forward assist the Army was demanding.

She has a partial fence lower receiver, 1:12 rifled barrel, three-prong flash-hider, chromed bolt carrier and no forward assist.  There's no chrome lining the bore, just the chamber.

The early model R604 was made before combat experience showed more improvement could be made, experience that mark the differences between the XM16E1 and M16A1.

Although the three-prong flash-hider does a better job of suppressing the flash than the later birdcage; the prongs do get snagged on things.  I notice that Smith Industries with their Vortex has reintroduced the open prongs and rediscovered that it's better at hiding the flash.

The chrome bolt was expensive to make and the shiny surface could give a soldier away.

The partial fence lower gave way to the full fence lower with a ridge surrounding the magazine release to help prevent accidentally dropping the mag.

These changes were incorporated into late production M16's in the early seventies about five years after they were added to the M16A1.  The very first guns were issued without any chrome in either the chamber or the barrel and the chrome found its way into the R604 as the change was made to the R603.

In addition to the forward assist, the Air Force never adopted the storage compartment in the buttstock.

Charlotte is a collection of vintage surplus parts with the exception of the lower receiver and trigger group.

Additional build notes here.

01 August 2012


So, Sew and Sow are not the same words even if they are pronounced the same.

You do not reap what you sew.


The video was pretty neat though!