Monday, February 10, 2020

Today, February 10, 2020

Today, I will work on more today posts.
Today, I did two pushups.
Today, I work in the office.
Today, I will help with the Boy Scout Troop.
Today, I am thankful for our family and having an excellent calm weekend together..
Today, I will abide.
Today, I am at peace.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Review: The Bullet Hole, Mission KS

TL'DR - good large shooting range and gun store. Bit dated and dusty. I like it.

Now for the novel:

The Bullet Hole is a fine shooting range and gun store in North Johnson County, KS. Been shopping here 20+ years, ever since I moved to town. They certainly do have the largest range in the area, upper floor is 15 or 30 lanes with target carriers out to 25 yards. Lower level is two open rooms for competition events; IDPA, IPCS, revolver, steel challenge and more.  Nice conference room downstairs too.  Lane fees are great - one fee for the annual membership - and you get to shoot free that day - and one flat rate for the lane for as long as you care to shoot.  No hourly fees. Air handlers work well, pulling smoke and lead fumes downrange and out of your face.  Air is directly pulled from outside, so it's right cold in the winter.

After becoming a member at The Bullet Hole (not sure of the time period)  you can rent a wide variety of handguns to try out, and I understand they have recently gotten their machine gun permit and have rental machine guns there tool.  Pull the trigger once - all 20 rounds fire off, unless you let go of the trigger.

While  busy, the employees have always been polite, even when I ask the same question 3 or 50 times in a row (usually about pricing and the colored tags).  Their firearm selection is first rate, focused on personal protection.  Pricing is better than you find at gun shows, and usually competitive with online shops.  They've been very gracious in letting me look and handgun after handgun, knowing I''m not buying anything that day. They've helped me to purchase and installed TFO TruGlo sights on my handguns, fair price, on the spot turnaround and no labor fees.

They offer reasonable prices on factory ammunition, and frequently have bulk ammunition sales.  They also have reloading supplies, although I've never seen any reloading presses set up or for sale.

Their accessory selection (holsters, primarily) has always been an afterthought it appears; they do have some holsters, but they are not in good order on the pegs and you simply have to flip through to see what you can find. I don't blame them - with the diversity of makes, models and types of holsters, limited wall space, and brutal competition online, I wouldn't put a lot of time or energy into holsters.  They could stand to clean it up and dust though.

One less star for the store for cleanliness.  Granted, it's an old building.  Granted, millions of round have been shot in it.  But it could stand a coat of paint, fresh carpet every 3 or 5 years, and a weekly detail clean of everything, and daily dusting. When it's busy, and they've had a ammo truck delivery, it's very crowded, hard to move around in during peak times.  Try to come by at 10AM or 2PM instead of lunch or just after dinner when everyone else does.

As I understand they've recently been bought out and now offer remarkably better communications, dozens of classes from the newest shooter to the grizzled old competition shooter through several vendors, not just the owners.  Very pleased to see that, have taken one of my sons through their basics class and he was *geeked*.  Wife and I did a couples / 2 person self defense class, and she was treated with respect, highly enjoyed the class and still brags on the class to this day. 

Long story short, big range.  Good gun shop.  20+ year customer, will continue to do business with them.

Dell Latitude 7250 12.5" Laptop Computer Review

Ah, yes, reviewing 5 year old hardware.  But it's what I can scrounge and a batch seems to be on the market as refurbished models now - so here's the scoop.
First, I got it at Microcenter.  Easy, quick pickup, exceptionally helpful staff.  In, out, done, 15 minutes, cursory upsell on warranty. (No thanks on a $300 refurb with completely customer replaceable parts. )


Dual core, 4 thread Intel i5 5300U at 2.3 ghz. (Broadwell)
12.5" 1900/1080 FHD screen with 10 point touch.
Intel HD Graphics 5500, shared memory.
8GB ram installed in two banks of 4GB each
128GB SSD. 
Backlit 82 key keyboard, trackpad, two discrete buttons, supports multitouch.
Ports: USB2, USB3 (A-Style); Mini Display Port, full size HDMI port, GigE RJ45 port.
Battery in the refurb was in remarkably good condition!

The Bad

Booting up the first time, it behaves just as you'd expect Windows 10 to start up - load stuff, link to your Microsoft account, set PIN etc.  However, once booted, you could NOT get many of the Win10 Builtin apps (like the Microsoft app Store) to fire, at all.  8 hours troubleshooting, created extra local users accounts, refreshed the OS to new twice, ran a screen full of Powershell commands, no go.
So, after a full business day off fussing with it, I grabbed the Lenovo mini laptop and made a Win10 install USB stick.  Fired the Dell back up, hit 'F2' and simply moved USB boot above on board hard drive.  Formatted the 118 GB partition after it boot up from the USB drive and did a fresh install of Win 10.
Word to the wise - it will restart during installation. If you miss that, and still have the USB flash drive in there, it will start the install over, creating two installations of Win10 on your hard drive. Watch the install while it runs until you can remove the USB drive.

The Good

Once the fresh copy of Windows 10 was installed - and it activated all on it's own, not taking the product key on the bottom of the laptop (?) - it ran fine.  All apps ran as expected, was able to set up Your Phone, network, printers, network shares, Bluetooth (listening to Pink Floyd on Youtube over AKG Y50BT cans right now)  
I have never used a touchscreen laptop.  I find it (at least on the bitty 12" model) very nice to check boxes and tap OK buttons.  Faster and easier than waving the mouse around to find the pointer and hit the right button.
The screen is frelling brilliant.  Deep dark blacks, saturated colors, true FHD screen.  Exceptionally impressed with the screen.  Rivals my (same age) Retina MacBook Pro, although the MacBook does have a higher resolution.  Keyboard is well within tolerance - large key caps, backlit, good key feel when typing.  And that's from a guy who, for 22 years+ would not type on anything but an IBM Model M Buckling Spring Keyboard.

Speed, so how about speed?

It's a dual core i5 from 5 years ago.  It's not going to handle your 53mpxl RAW photos or 8K video editing.  Or much video editing at all (although I guarantee I'm going to load DaVinci Resolve on there just for the fun factor).
Loads Chrome, Firefox, Edge (legacy), Edge (chrome) all fine.  Updated to the latest version of Windows. WiFi was easy to connect, solid and quick.


Still TBD if this is an all-day laptop; initial reports showed a 4 hour battery life; I'm going to run it through a few conditioning cycles and see how the battery life holds out.  Overall, a steal. Brilliant hand feel from the textured polycarbonate case to the palm rest. Excellent screen, no problems with performance for office / school work or web and video surfing.  A 4 star Good Buy rating from me if you can find one.

(ObDisclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. All products mentioned should not be considered an endorsement, and were all paid out of pocket by me)

Enjoy your new laptop!

Will England

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Review: ORA:CLE

ORA:CLE ORA:CLE by Kevin O'Donnell Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grabbed this off a discount rack decades ago - before I'd heard of the company by the same name. Great pulp sci-fi, a world dominated by aliens, cities completely re-forested to battle the high C02 levels and global warming, citizens that never leave their apartment, having everything delivered from online orders through their 'mass transciever'; public and job meetings taking place in virtual environments where everyone is working remote. Very prescient of today's Skype, Internet shopping and climate change. But, with a twist! The protagonist finds a problem in the shared story everyone has agreed, to, and with that information, his life is at risk. Does he dare act on this new information that could literally kill half the population, but free them from alien domination?

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ham Radio - 160 meter vertical antenna

In a small yard, you have limited options for setting up an antenna for the lower bands of HAM Radio. This article gives a good overview of a helical wound vertical antenna that can be used in a small space. Going to have to try this out. It's vaguely portable as well for field day or operating while camping! 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Powerlet Motorcycle Power Adapters are back!

Powerlet, a long time leader in secure, durable, rugged motorcycle and powersports 12v sockets, plugs, wires, mounts and accessories, is back in business!  Check them out at

Saturday, November 16, 2019

How to navigate Blogger using the URL bar

Some - many actually - blogs don't have a date picker on their sidebar.  Annoying if you want to jump back to their first post and read in chronological order.  So, how to get around that?  Use the URL bar.  From the first page of the blog, scroll down, click the 'Older Posts'.

Now, you have a URL like 
in the URL bar.

Now, simply edit the 'max' value - it's a year, month, day value.  You can simply change the year:

Eventually you'll hit a year that has no posts - you'll see a message like:
Go back one year.  Then you can go by month:

Change the 09 to 08, the 07 and so on.  Or, if your that close to the beginning you can just click 'older posts' until you reach the beginning.  With enough edits or clicks, you'll find the start:

Hope this helps you in your blog reading!

Will England

Sunday, November 10, 2019

How To Camp - gear and prep information

Someone asked on Quora about camping.  I, as usual, went on a multi-page essay. Follows is my advice on How To Camp.  I could continue for hours more - 12 years as an adult scouter, 2 Philmont crew trainings, 1 Philmont trek, 6 years as a youth in scouting, a couple of family campouts inbetween the scouting Troop campouts.

As others have commented - good tent. I’ll disagree on the Wal-Mart special; their Ozark Trail line, especially the smaller ones, are brilliant tents and will last several seasons with good care. That being said, I run REI Half Dome and REI Quarter Dome tents. Watch for sales, use your REI dividend the help cut costs.

REI Half Dome 2+.  Note full fly to the ground, large vestibule.

Old Coleman tent with full fly, large vestibule, properly tied out. Coleman doesn’t make this style anymore unfortunately.

Otherwise it’s follow the Scouts BSA handbook (Get any used version off of eBay, it’s really the best book on camping written) on how to set up a tent, use a footprint, etc. The Scouts BSA Fieldguide is the next level of superior information, get a copy of that - any version is good. Get a *good* insulated ground pad. Klymit Static V Insulated is most excellent and there are others. Foam pads are jus fine, especially for the younger set. As we age and our bones get to aching, the *insulated* air pads are worth the money.

Get a good sleeping bag. Mountain Hardware Lamina Z 20 or Kelty Cosmic 20 Dri-Down both under $300 or far less on sale, both impressively warm. Know and understand the temperature rating listed on the bag is the ‘survival’ temp - you’ll live, but you won’t be comfortable. a ’20 degree’ bag is generally warm down to about 40 degrees. Some bags have actual tested ratings, called ‘EN Rated’ — read those. They list the comfort and survival limits for men and women. The Cosmic 20 is EN rated to 16 for survival. I’ve found it warm to about 30 degrees, below that I’d be grabbing a ‘0 degree’ bag. Slumberjack is generally going to be the best price / quality compromise, but they are big and heavy. I have a shelf full; Campmor, Cabelas and Bass Pro frequently put them on sale for well under $100.
Get the smallest tent you can stand. Less airspace to warm up. Avoid bigass cabin tents, they don’t ventilate, don’t warm up, and blow down too easily. I prefer self-supporting tents (dome tents) so you can set them up, then easily move them as needed to get the positioning just right.
Set the tent up with your head at the high end of the slope you are camping on. About every campground is going to have some level of slope - figure it out and sleep head up. Sleeping head-down you’ll wake up with a wicked headache.
Get a tent with a fly that comes nearly to the ground. Stake it out everywhere you can stake it out. Use all the guylines you can. An unexpected wind will flatten a poorly guyed out tent and make for a miserable night. Set up the tent at home (or in a local park) at least once before the trip, ideally two or three times so you know how to set it up, and how to pack it down to fit back in the bag.

Overkill big tent. It caught the wind this Spring and snapped the poles. Kids managed to tape and lash it together for one more night, but it was wasted after that.

Bring a small comfy folding chair. REI has 2 pound mini chairs you can find from $50 to $100; Aerostich has a brilliant chair called the ‘Kermit’ that packs small enough to use motorcycle camping.
REI mini-chair in front of the Half Dome 2 Plus tent. Worth every penny and ounce. Very comfortable, very sturdy

A doormat isn’t a bad idea to put in the vestibule to keep the entry / exit of your tent dry. Take care of the tent - no shoes in the tent, clean it out when you’re done, air it out and dry it, store it loosely stuffed in a tote or sack in the off-season, re-seal the seams every year or two, etc.
Pre-cook as much of your food before you go (having a ground beef dinner? Pre cook the beef, drain and freeze before you leave). Use a stove with burners below the surface for wind protection. Cook a meal on the stove before you leave. Pack all your kitchen in one tote - stove, cutting board, pot, pan, 2 dishpans, soap, serving spoons, knives (cased), plates, cups etc. Before you leave, cook a meal using only what’s in the tote - anything you have to get out of a drawer, either add to the tote or buy another one, OR see if you can multipurpose something else to do the job. Unless you *want* to spend most of your evening cooking and cleaning, fix pre-prepared food as much as possible. Canned stew and dinner rolls is a brilliant dinner, quick prep and cleanup. If you’re going to use freeze dried bagged food - try it out at home first. Some are nice, some taste like ass. It’s worth the $20 to get one bag of each meal before you leave to make sure everyone will like the taste.
Cooking - use a compressed gas stove (propane) under 6K feet / above 20 degrees. Use a white gas stove over 6K feet / under freezing conditions. Jetboil personal stoves hate cold weather and altitude. For backpacking - MSR Whisperlite. For basecamp - Coleman or Camp Chef are both good stoves. All available under $100, especially if you catch the many sales every year. If you are doing large group camping, get a 15 pound propane tank, distribution manifold and connectors for the stove and lantern. Beats carrying (and having run out) 3 or 4 one pound propane bottles.

If you’re a coffee addict (hi!) don’t bother with the percolator unless you have a large group going and are base camping in one place for a while. A french press is nice - but you need a very coarse grind to keep from getting a lot of fines in your cup. Don’t just bring canned coffee for a french press - go to the store, get the beans and grind them coarse. A french press also takes 2 to 2.5x the water to make and clean. If water is a limiting factor (backpacking) - hit up Starbucks and get enough Via Packs to make coffee for all. They taste great, easy to fix, low water requirement and exceptionally light.

Take 7 gallons of water plus a flat of bottled water with you assuming you are car-camping. Until you have spoken with the camp ranger, assume any water from a tap is contaminated and boil / treat for bacteria. Definitely treat stream or lake water. In the Midwest just don’t use lakewater. It’s all poison. (oilfield, cattle, crop runoff). In the mountains the creek water, especially that beautiful clear cold running water is pure poison. Cryptosporidium is rife in mountain streams and will push everything you ever ate out your back end, putting a prompt end to your trip - and possibly an end to your younger and older campers lives. Once the runs start, immediately end the trip, return to the car and get to town and a clinic. Not kidding. Grew up in New Mexico - and we’d hear of a couple babies dying from crypto every year. Use the water purification tabs - and let them sit 4 hours, not the 30 minutes on the label. 30 minutes is for warm water. The 38 degree creek water will take much longer to purify. Water is life. Know where your next water is, how much you have now, and how much you need to get to your next water.