I ate my wafer...


Wisconsin Deer hunting with civil war artillery techniques.


Everyday Chemistry

No human diet can be free of naturally occurring chemicals that are rodent carcinogens.
— Bruce Ames, Ph.D. and Lois Swirsky Gold, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

So, Peter Krupa very succinctly illustrates the level of science knowledge in the U.S. with his current post on sea salt. Since I fight similar, and probably futile, battles all the time, it is always nice to see someone else play science skeptic.*

If anyone is interested, I've started an argument (scroll down, my post is pretty obvious) at the Badger & Blade forums over the ridiculous assertion that herbal nostrums "contain no chemicals" and "contain no toxins". If, by some interesting quirk of fate, I ever teach high school or college science, there would be a substantial chunk of time devoted to the everyday science of evaluating alternative medicine health claims. Quite simply, until I see some serious evidence to the contrary, I strongly believe that:

A. A drug/food/whatever is essentially the sum of its chemical parts.
B. The scientific method, as applied in well-designed studies, and good analytical chemistry can tell us what chemical compounds are useful, dangerous, etc.
C. The dose makes the poison. Otherwise, damn near all foods would be lethal from the small quantities of toxic chemicals. Example: virtually all of the assertions in the silly "toxins" article at healing-scents.com are void for the low dose actually delivered in cosmetic products.
D. Placebo effect is an amazingly powerful device. (I believe I have an interesting way to demonstrate placebo effect in a classroom, using nothing more than a computer projector and 5 minutes of class time. If any teacher in the audience wants try it, let me know.)

In other words, unless a given sea salt product can be examined with analytic chemistry tools to explain exactly what non-NaCl components are present and actually useful, it is a complete waste of money.

*Full disclosure: Mr. Krupa and I were once lab partners. Since he knows at least one story from that time period, involving a bunsen burner, that would seriously degrade my credibility on scientific matters, I'm probably forever obligated to help him in internet science arguments.



So, I've promised that I'd write about padlocks, and I believe that my background on the topic is pretty substantial. I've collected padlocks for years since they're often the cheapest and most available source of interesting locks for my lock addiction. I've also used padlocks to secure all manner of things, including exposure to heavy weather and marine environments. I have tested a great number of padlocks using tools from conventional lock picking to salt water spray. I tried to keep this list short and useful, reviewing common locks from low to high security, but I know that I've left out quite a few locks. If anyone desires my opinion on some lock that I've omitted, please let me know!

Here's the basics: the bigger diameter shackle that you can use in a given application, generally the more force-resistant the lock. If you can conveniently use a shrouded shackle lock, it will be more forced entry (saw and pry resistant). Most locks aren't defeated by Surreptitious Entry such as picking, shimming, bypass tools etc, but I'll rate common locks for that feature as well.

I've tried to cover most of the common padlocks below, rating them on a scale from 1-5 in the areas of Forced Entry, Surreptitious Entry, and Weather Resistance. The higher the number, the better the rating.

Master Lock Combination Locks
Forced Entry: 1
Surreptitious Entry: 0
Weather Resistance: 1

Although it is possible to gradually manipulate the lock and determine the combination to open the lock, the Master Combination Lock only locks on one side of the hasp, and are completely vulnerable to shimming. A bent open bobby pin can shim a master padlock in a couple of seconds, leaving virtually no forensic evidence on the lock. There is no good reason to use one of these locks anywhere where security is even remotely a concern.

Master Warded Locks
Forced Entry: 1
Surreptitious Entry: 1
Weather Resistance: 4

There are a variety of warded lock styles, but the one that concerns us here is the Master Lock model, and its Asian knock-off equivalents. Although the warded padlocks don't yield quite as readily to shimming with improvised tools, they're insanely easy to pick with a "skeleton" key that mere bypasses all of the warding for all locks of the same model. A retarded chimp could make a skeleton key from a regular warded lock key in 5 minutes. Avoid these locks completely, at least with the combination locks you don't have to carry a key, but there's no good reason to every use a warded lock for anything

Master Simple Pin Tumbler
Forced Entry: 3
Surreptitious Entry: 2
Weather Resistance: 3

Once again, the standard lock here is the Master Lock, such as the Number #3. Although these locks are nearly an order of magnitude better than the locks discussed above, they're basically the first level of lock worth using for anything. I'd point out that they're still pretty easy to cut off with bolt nippers or a dremel, and they're one of the simpler pin tumbler locks to pick. The asian knock-offs of this type of lock are usually serviceable, though not nearly as durable, and prone to rusting.

American Padlock

Forced Entry: 3
Surreptitious Entry: 3
Weather Resistance: 2

Traditionally, American has a relationship with Master much like Chevy/Ford. The standard American model is vulnerable to bypass tools used in the keyway, and to simply drilling out the rivet that holds the cylinder in, but they're VERY hard to pick open. I personally have had bad luck with weather resistance on American locks, but their still a very decent lock for the money. They beat the snot out the average Master laminated lock, and Menards often has them onsale for less money. The knock off American style locks are pretty decent usually, and not a horrible buy.

ABUS Pin Tumbler Diskus locks

Forced Entry: 5
Surreptitious Entry: 4
Weather Resistance: 3

Most Do-It BEST stores stock the cheaper ABUS disk lock for $14 or less, and its a heck of deal for the money. An experienced person can pick them, but they are not a trivial lock, and they usually take a significant amount of time to Surreptitious ly bypass . It is very hard to remove one forcefully without an acetylene torch, and compared to the non-ABUS knock offs, they're even hard to torch apart. The Master lock knock-off is quite inferior in all regards.

Rotating Disk Abloy-Types (ABLOY, ABUS Granit, etc)

Forced Entry: 4
Surreptitious Entry: 5
Weather Resistance: 5

These are probably the best padlocks around: the keys aren't easily duplicable, it takes very special tools AND experience to pick them, and the rotating disk mechanism is as weatherproof as mechanically possible. The problem is that the Abloy and Abus products aren't very cheap, running into the $100 range, though ~$20 from ebay. I have seen some knock-off models that are much cheaper, including a set of three, keyed differently with a master key that I got off eBay for $20. Virtually any rotating disk lock is superior to all pin-tumbler padlocks.


Webley Air Pistol Feeding and Care

So, I started to write a long comment over at hellinahandbasket about air pistol pellets, then realized that I haven't posted here for a while, and I didn't want to hijack James's thread.

I've been a huge fan of air guns in general since before Kindergarten (the first gun I remember firing was a Benjamin 317 air rifle at age 4). One of the first, and best air guns that I personally bought was a Webley Tempest Airpistol, very similar to the one that James Rummel is discussing here. I bought my Tempest in about 6th grade for the princely sum of $150, and I've put around 50,000 pellets through it since then. I'm a bit biased, but I do think that it is one of the best values in firearms training available. Although the Webley design vibrates a bit much for serious 10m air pistol competition accuracy, it is blessed with higher velocity, long barrel length, AND durability which makes it very practical to shoot at longer distances, and for heavy practice. With the rear sight nearly at its maximum elevation, mine will consistently hit at shoe box at 40 yards (8 or 9 pellets out of 10 if I do my part).

The first place to look for any airgun info is the pyramid air blog, which is readable, concise, and very honest. Although it is written in connection with the pyramid air store, the blog critically reviews the very products sold in the store. I can't say enough good things about the pyramid air blog or store. For a quick example, here's one of their blog posts on the webley pistols.

What to shoot into:

I don't see anything wrong with shooting a cardboard box stuffed full of paper, other than having to change the paper ever now and again, but metal and putty traps are nice and simple. Anyone with some metal working skills and equipment can slap together their own metal trap in a hour or less, so that's also a possibility for the tinkering inclined.

Besides eliminating the clanking noises of a metal trap, the main advantage to a putty trap is the containment of lead dust. Each time a pellet hits the rear surface of a metal trap, it throws off some lead dust, which, if you shoot heavily enough in an enclosed area it can increase lead exposure. I've never built a homemade putty trap, but it sounds simple enough.

When outside, air guns should be treated similarly to a shotgun loaded with trap loads since they both have very similar maximum ranges (on the order of 200 yards, I used the free, and fun to use AL_Bal program to compute an approximate Webley max range). Now, the main reason I bring this up is for the edification of anyone tempted to shoot in the air, say at a bird in a tree with an airgun. If (excluding noise and legal reasons) you wouldn't feel comfortable using a shotgun loaded with cheap trap loads in the same environment, you might wish to reconsider using an airgun. Not very many people are injured by airgun and shotgun pellets falling from the sky at 200 yards, but you can certainly irritate your neighbors if you miss the starling you shot at.

What to Feed it:

I'd suggest that buying some decent pellets, lead bbs are so soft that they lead the barrel fairly quickly, and, well, every pass of the cleaning patch takes a little life out of the barrel, so I'd rather shoot pellets and clean less often.

Never, ever shoot steel bb's or darts through a rifled barrel. It will damage the rifiling very quickly, even not necessarily noticeably to the naked eye. Shooting Steel BB's through a good rifled barrel is the shooting equivalent to defecating in bathroom sinks.

I shoot RWS light weight match pellets (blue tin, ~$8/500) when I really want to shoot accurately with my webley (in part I keep them around to be able to tell when accuracy degrades from leading and I should clean.

Otherwise I shoot whatever's cheap at wal-mart OTHER than the rebranded "Beeman" Chinese pellets, which are just too crappy to bother with. Usually the bulk pack cheap crossman's are ~$3.75/500 and they're not bad. The Daisy offering isn't bad either, but usually their a bit more money locally to me, and somewhat lower in qualirty. A couple times a year Meijers runs a sale on air gun accessories for 25% off, and I usually buy 20 bucks worth, which is about 3 or 4 thousand cheap pellets or perhaps 2500 of the excellent Crossman "Premier" pellets.

The crappy pointed bulk pack pellets are a little disappointed to shoot bullseye with, but they'll still hit cans out to 50 feet or more.

I've played around a little with the plastic skirted Prometheus pellets, and while they're definitely accurate and flat shooting, I can't justify the price for general shooting.

If you order enough pellets to get the "buy 3 tins get one free" deal from Pyramid Airguns, they're definitely the cheapest online source for pellets.


A. Lube:

I've used air guns specific lubes before, and they work ok. Most of my experience has been with the Beeman products, but I can't find their chamber and spring oils on their website anymore. There are plenty of decent primers on airgun lubrication on the internet, so I'm not going to rehash them here. To be honest, I typically use Mobil One automotive oil for chamber oil, since it is as flash resistance as most chamber lube, cheaper, and already in my garage. Since it is easy to drip oil directly into the compression chamber on a Tempest, special needles and techniques aren't particularly necessary, and I typically just drip a drop or two or so through it every 2000 or 3000 pellets. I can't say that I really follow a strict schedule. Besides the chamber, I usually just drip some oil into the spring slot and in the various pivot points and call it good as far as lubrication. On my particular Tempest, the barrel's bluing has worn off (actually I reblued it and it wore off again) so I have to wipe it with oil often in hot weather to prevent rust (usually about every 500 pellets), and I usually tend to oil the linkages then as well. The Tempest is a pretty durable design, and pretty forgiving.

B. Bore:

A great number of firearms are worn out before their time by excessive and ham-fisted cleaning, and air guns are even more vulnerable since the rifling is much finer and usually softer. So, I personally don't clean my Tempest's bore until accuracy degrades from leading. It isn't particularly scientific, but if I suspect accuracy has dropped while shooting the usual crap pellets, I shoot a 50 yard rifle target at 10 meters with RWS pellets, and if the score is particularly bad, I clean the bore. I do this at approximately every 1,500 pellets, though if I shoot particularly soft pellets I may have to clean at 500 shots, and sometimes I get perhaps 3,000 pellets or more between bore cleaning when shooting high quality pellets.

Never clean any gun from the muzzle that you can clean from the breech.

My cleaning technique is pretty similar to this (pdf), but I typically use weedwacker string for the pull through (you can melt a ball on the end of the string to hold a patch). I occasionally use felt cleaning pellets, and they do save some time for light cleaning. I do have a .177" sized cleaning rod, but I've migrated towards using pull-throughs mainly for the silly reason that I feel the rod touch the rifling lands, and I don't feel the same contact with the pull through. It is a bit sloppy, but on the Tempest, I typically use any solvent I have at hand to wet the first few patches, from Hoppe's #9 to Ethyl Ether or Brake Cleaner. After the cleaning, I do run a lightly oiled patch or two through the bore, typically with the same Mobil One oil used for the chamber.


Water Quackery

*Edited to fix Manufacturer/model of ionizer, without the ionizer in hand when I wrote the original post, I confused the KYK Harmony with the Jupiter Melody.

So, a couple of days ago, I had several minutes to play with a Jupiter Melody Water Ionizer At the time, all I really knew was that the toaster sized machine was supposed to filter and change the ph level of tap water. At least at that point I assumed that there was the vague possiblity that the machine worked, perhaps by adding a acidic or basic compounds to the water. Anyway, here's how I quickly tested the machine with household items:

A. Set the machine to ph3, poured a glass of water, stuck my finger in the water, felt nothing, added backing soda to the glass of water without a reaction, then finally poured a second glass of water to drink. Absolutely no acidic taste whatsoever.

B. Set the machine to ph13, poured a glass of water, stuck my finger in the water, felt nothing, added vinegar to the glass of water without a reaction, then finally poured a second glass of water to drink. Absolutely no alkaline taste whatsoever.

After that impromptu 5 minute experiment, I was convinced that the machine was quackery, and that the manufacturers were more than likely risking regulatory action since the ph setting buttons on the machine had absolutely nothing to do with the water produced.

So, according to Google, the machine costs nearly $1100, and is complete and utter quackery. The amusing part is that quack pseudoscience devices involving water are experiencing increased popularity at the moment. There's everything from people that believe cancer should be treated with alkaline water, to the prill bead nuts that think that love powered pebbles can purify all the water on earth. It never ceases to amaze me how much money can be made with fake science and useless medical devices.

*Fun Google news item found in preparation of this post: Apparently even crappy municipal water gets traded for sexual favors in Arkansas.


A Marriage and Flaming Woodchuck Bits

So, I'm freshly returned from the Briggs-Nunn wedding in beer and cheese filled Wisconsin. Other than the somewhat depressing 9 hour drive home, it was an absolutely great experience, with large amounts of general merriment. I may write more about the wedding later, but in the meantime, I'd like to introduce my readers to The Rodenator (hat tip to Lee Nunn).

I highly recommend watching the Rodenator videos available on Google Video. Not only do they feature flying chunks of dirt (and or rodent bits), the company owner's description of the feeling of revenge the rodenator provides is straight out of Caddyshack.