30 June, 2008
Mirroring indeed. Fuck.
I've been trying extra-hard to keep myself organised with this laptop, as every time I move from one machine to another I have a brutal time of making sure I get everything from the current machine to the next machine.
Years ago, when my primary machine was a server sitting on a T1, I actually just kept my entire home directory in cvs. This grew very quickly into something unmanageable (although whether it started as manageable is open to debate) because of a few factors: churn, binaries, and size.
To address cvs' problem with binaries, simply moving to subversion is sufficient, and I've been very happy with it.
For size, I've been trying to keep things logically compartmentalised so I am only backing up what I want backed up (so, for example, I can back up my Documents/ directory without backing up my Pictures/ directory – at least on in version control). Subversion is also less balky with larger-sized repositories (I'm using fsfs; I don't know about the other options).
For churn, svn seems to also do a pretty good job of managing lots and lots of commits. However, there isn't a great way to make sure that new files get committed when they're added and files get deleted when they're removed. I could probably write a cron job that finds stuff that isn't in svn and emails it to me daily, or something. But what a pain in the ass.
So I think I have a reasonable system, by running stuff into subversion. This, combined with being fairly anal about file placement (having a Projects directory helps me keep piles of stuff organised) appears (after a couple months, I guess) to be working, as long as I'm religious about keeping stuff where it belongs (e.g., no 'crap' folder on my desktop).
But the missing component here is a good interface for the whole thing. Unfortunately, I'm juggling two (or three, depending on how you look at it) different interfaces for these carefully-laid-out files.
I like XCode's interface a lot. I have a reasonably good editor (which is to say, it's not vim, but it'll do in a pinch), a reasonably good file manager (approximately as good as the finder), and some additional tools, like "make in this directory" or "find where this subroutine is defined." Unfortunately, it's pretty bad with perl code, and it doesn't know what to do with e.g., Word documents (I also keep all my writing in subversion, and manage it with a TM project).
I like TextMate's interface less. Substantially less, I think. However, it doesn't really get in my way the way XCode does, and it does the right thing when I double-click on a document it doesn't know how to work with (Word, etc). And it has support for subversion, and it understands perl. But its bundled packages are kind of clunky, and I don't like the way it formats text/syntax (yes, I know this is customisable; that's besides the point – the idea of this whole enterprise is to simplify things; If I have to create custom setups for each of these interfaces, I haven't simplified much at all!). Its management of C (& ruby, etc) projects is nowhere near as shiny as XCode's (and XCode is free!!).
So, unfortunately, I'm using both. I have TextMate organising files into its preferred project format (.tmproj) because it can keep a bunch of stuff in one pane, and preview in the other pane (with hilighting!) and it will DTRT if I doubleclick a document it doesn't know how to work with. One such document would be the XCode project format, .xcodeproj. So I have "parent" "project" files, which are viewed in TextMate and "sub-project" files, which are viewed in XCode. Boy, what a pain. Things are organised well enough, and both editors do what I want them to do (within the limits of their "responsibility"), but I can't help but being a little worried that I'm depending on two different sets of document management schemes.
As a footnote to this, when I explained this to Sandy, she told me that "you're always going to be stuck with a vendor." The correct response is, of course, "not on Unix...". In Unix, I'm happy to use vim to manage all this stuff, tar and cvs/svn to move things around, wget/rsync/scp to push/pull, $EDITOR to edit, and so on. At the same time, though, it feels kind of stupid to not be using all the shiny tools Apple has given me, especially since I supposedly pay a premium to get their fancy hardware and their fancy software.
At any rate, wasn't NeXTStep supposed to take all these individual tasks and make plugins for a Grand Unified Interface? So many of these tasks are common: file management, editing, store/retrieve, diff/blame/co/ci, etc., why do we still have so many programs that do some, but not all of them? I realise I can mount a subversion repository, over DAV, like I would any other filesystem. But the implementation of client-side DAVfs is slow and buggy, and I would still require something in the Finder that would give me a reasonable editor or preview pane, and some sort of "click this to commit/update/check out." I hope, as Apple attempts to court developers with all these fancy free SDK's, that they tie more of the functionality for developers into the user interface.
Maybe it's time Apple actually separated out the "more advanced" stuff (scm, etc) from the basic interface, and had some toggle mechanism to switch the advanced stuff on so as not to frighten the non-advanced-users. For a very long time, they steadfastly refused to use multi-button mice, or to have hierarchical displays in the Finder, and they've been slowly rolling back the "keep it simple" in particular places of the OS. As they begin to garner a bigger and bigger segment of the userbase, at some point, they're going to have to start providing the new Mac users the tools they want to use and previously were using Windows or Unix for.
26 June, 2008
…am looking forward to the AT-AT being once again available for purchase.
On a more serious note, it seems to me that there is much hand-wringing and squealing in the media (boy, NPR was a complete trainwreck this morning). Said pundits and editors seem outright shocked by the decision (were they really shocked?), and have predicted the sky will fall within three weeks.
But many of these same organizations have issued polls, including CNN, MSNBC, AOL, and of course your average not-quite-media-rich local paper sites, such as the Salt Lake City tribune. These polls seem to indicate a better than 2/3 majority of respondents are in favor of gun rights (or at least approve of the decision). How is that possible? Is it really the case that a third of the population is actually more vocal than another body, twice its size? I must admit, I really don't understand the dynamic.
I'm not surprising anyone by saying I'm actually pretty happy about the ruling, and Scalia has mostly summarized the more "traditional" reading of the amendment when he says,
It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service – M-16 rifles and the like – may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment's ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large.
Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.
Which is actually very refreshing. I think that while many gun owners, especially owners of weapons which are decidedly not CQB or strictly "defensive" (such as high-powered rifles), really enjoy the sport/hobby, there's an undercurrent of pride (for lack of a better term) that their country won't be coopted by the same tyranny it sought to escape when it was founded.
Vote from the rooftops, indeed.
24 June, 2008
Pakistani authorities Sunday [22 Jun 2008] reported a new outbreak of avian flu at a commercial poultry farm in the country's north west, killing thousands of birds, officials said.
Tests conducted at a government-run laboratory in Islamabad confirmed the presence of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu at a farm in Swabi district, local livestock department chief Ibrahim Khan told AFP. "The virus was detected after the owner of the farm informed us on Friday [20 Jun 2008] that some 4000 birds had died within the past few days," he said.
I suppose now would be a good time for the tinfoil hat brigade to start screeching about the CIA inventing H5N1 to
20 June, 2008
I've been ruminating about some stupid politics in the office. The thought was along the lines of, "if only people would just go with the answer that makes the most sense, rather than sticking to their position regardless of its (lack of) merit." That's pretty short-sighted. I realize now that my thinking that way is simply a response to my own ego being bruised. I think. There's no point in going in to details. The problem is always the same. Somebody insists on doing something one way because they said so, and people that are told to do it that way disagree for whatever reason. With very, very few exceptions, it works out that the person who "says so" gets their way, largely because to admit that they were wrong is to suggest that their leadership is flawed at least occasionally.
I like to think I take such criticisms and change my mind when it makes sense to do so, but would I be this bent out of shape if that were the case?
When I took this position, deliberately "underachieving," I told myself I had a lot of room to back away from a project, or to not engage so tightly, and yet I find myself being not a little chafed by the prospect of my normal routine and preferences being stomped on. I must be kidding myself at some level. If I really was decoupled from this sort of thing, I'd happily do whatever was suggested of me, even if I don't think it's the right idea. And I wouldn't get heartburn over it.
Clearly, though, even in some of these stupid ideological skirmishes, the principle of the disagreement makes me unhappy.
There is another possibility, though, and that is there are certain people I have much more difficulty "just doing what I'm told" with. I'm not sure which is less probable: that I'm deluding myself about being less personally invested in this position or that there are people who are really good at making me unhappy (whether they think they are or not).
14 June, 2008
13 June, 2008
Well, okay, it's a crummy picture. But it's hard to really get a picture of the area these people live in, and Google took away my manual tilt/pan feature in favor of this wankery.
After reading Follet's (fictional) account of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation, and being in the process of reading T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, I find myself more interested in the history of "CENTCOM" (yes, I realize this is a horrible term for the area and period I'm talking about) in the 1600 - 1920 period. It seems more and more to me that where we are today is only a very small part of the history there (ahem). Specifically, the problems we're having (and not "we" in the "America! Fuck yeah!" context; rather "we" as humans) in the middle east is directly related to how we (America this time) have handled the last forty or so years in the region. Prior to us fucking things up there, the British were doing a great job of it. And of course, prior to that it was the Papacy, and prior to that it was, well, you get the picture.
What really bothers me is that nobody seems to be paying attention to this rather glaring fact (well, except the Muslims, but nobody's listening to them). I thought I'd go to a bookstore today and repopulate the stack-o-books I seem to be whittling down faster than I expected. Sorely disappointed. I wound up picking up two Arthur C Clarke books (I realize now I should have been reading this stuff a long time ago) and heading home. I went through their entire "world history" section, and the only things there were histories of the last, say, ten years. Maybe fifteen. Everything was Iraq this, al-Qaeda that, Nuclear Iran, and save the fucking pandas. I couldn't even find anything about the tribes in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, and that was very recent when compared to the history of the area. The only place I could find anything going back past 1900 was the Roman history section, and, well, anyone who knows me knows I can spout that shit for hours. I don't need any more (for the moment; I need to read more Cicero).
I get the impression that the only reason people are interested in reading history (at least, most of the current generations of Americans) is they want to read tabloids and gossip – about countries. I mean, they want to hear all the salacious details about how Osama bin Laden is actually in a secret prison underneath the white house with Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa, how the Iraqis are very noble and oppressed people, and on and on. It's not history, it's muckraking. I mean, that stuff might belong in the "politics" section (is a history of the 2003 - present invasion actually "history"?), except that there was such a rush to publish it (rather like a tabloid, eh) that it will be hopefully outdated in five years, let alone fifty, and we'll have proper books on the subject. If you wanted to find a relevant text, with data that actually encompassed more than this morning's New York Times (the pinnacle of journalistic excellence), you'd be hard pressed to find it anywhere other than a college book store.
Why is it that every time I try to learn something I have to find the direction everyone else is going in, turn 180° and go the other way? I mean, walking out of a book store because everything there was useless? I'm really disappointed.
The first, and perhaps most important in the decision is the possible safety problems with ultra-mag cartridges and the Remington 700 action. In a nutshell, while it is a great all-purpose action, and is chambered in damn near every major cartridge out there, the walls of the action are actually quite thin. It might be easy to dismiss this criticism were it not coming from Dan Lilja. I'm not really one to second-guess the guy. An argument could be made that going with one of the "custom" Rem 700 actions like the Surgeon or the Black Widow would help with the action rigidity, its safety under high pressures, and even with accuracy in general. But there's another problem.
The way Roy Weatherby designed his cartridges was actually pretty innovative. The principle is that you take a large cartridge (like the 375 H&H), neck it down or blow it out, and use a long bullet. This has the effect of increasing the velocity of the round substantially. Additionally, Weatherby cartridges are chambered with what is called "free boring." It's a pretty simple concept: an area forward (towards the loud end) of the round is left un-rifled. This bit of space before the rifling allows the bullet to "jump" out of the shell before hitting the rifling. I haven't chronied any of these rounds, but the articles I've read have said that gains of 200fps are typical.
This sounds pretty fantastic, until you remember that the rifling is what makes a round accurate. This is why we spend so much time figuring out twist and barrel length for a given cartridge. So, yes, you lose accuracy. People generally say that they tightest they're getting the 300 Wby and 30-378 Wby is 1 moa, with most of them being in the 2-2.5 moa range. Really, is this important though? The answer is not really. Weatherby designed cartridges for hunting. Every time he built a cartridge (although the origins of the 300 Wby are a little murky), he did so in the interest of having a more effective hunting round. 2-2.5 moa is perfectly acceptable for game larger than, say, a coyote. With whitetail deer, the vital area is something around the size of a volley ball, and within 300 yards, I think you'll probably be fine. Especially with a monster like the 378 or 338 Wby cartridges.
But I am not interested, really, in making a hunting rifle. I want to make a rifle that's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot, and will grow with me as my skills increase. Right now, I'm concentrating on the 600-1000yds range, and hopefully by the time I get good at that, I'll have found a place I can open up to 1,500yds. And 2.5 moa at 1,000 yds, or even at 800 yds, is very significant. How do you know, for example, whether you were responsible for your 5" group or whether the rifle was just not any more accurate than that?
So, I'm kind of disappointed, but I'm quite happy that I found this out now, rather than wondering what in the hell was wrong with my shooting when I switch from the .22-250 to the larger magnum round(s).
The question now becomes, what cartridge do I want to use?
At present, I'm leaning towards the .338 Lapua, the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, and, yes, the .50 BMG. I realize that if I'm going to buy an action and a barrel that the cost of the rifle is going to be fairly constant between the three. The ammunition is a factor, but another thing I learned today (I had a lot of reading to do) was that apparently, once-fired brass is important for achieving the highest accuracy you can from a rifle. Apparently, the brass "blows out" to the dimensions of the chamber, and results in a tighter, more accurate chambering and firing.
If I'm going to have to handload eventually, the cost of the cartridges gets even closer between the available ultra-magnums. I might even consider the .408 Chey-Tac if I find a reasonable action for it (and suppressor, I guess...).
07 June, 2008
At any rate, he manages to come up with a couple points in the book which are clearly his own narrative (rather than, say, something reasonable to come out of one of his characters), but are nonetheless close to profound (although, again, something of a cliché).
"The Agency is not supposed to do assassinations," he said.
"But it does."
"There's a lunatic element that gives us a bad name. Unfortunately, presidents can't resist the temptation to play secret-agent games, and that encourages the nutcase faction."
"Why don't you turn your back on them all and join the human race?"
"Look. America is full of people who believe that other countries as well as their own have a right to be free–but they're the type of people who turn their backs and join the human race. In consequence, the Agency employes too many psychopaths and too few decent, compassionate citizens. Then, when the Agency brings down a foreign government at the whim of a president, they all ask how this kind of thing can possibly happen. The answer is because they let it. My country is a democracy, so there's nobody to blame but me when things are wrong; and if things are to be put right, I have to do it, because it's my responsibility."
I regularly converse with somebody who says she can't read more than a couple books by the same author because she gets too stuck "in the author's head." I couldn't get more than half-way through the 300pp book without getting tired of being there. Perhaps the most compelling (although coincidental and inadvertent) facet of the book is the fact it was written in 1986 and reads more or less like the reverse of the position we're in presently in Afghanistan.
04 June, 2008
I know we were going to go hunting this fall, so I figured I'd come up with a list of toys we'll need to do that. Please be aware that I've faxed you a copy of my affidavit of niceness, and sent along the original via FedEx. I am sure the included references will vouch for my not being naughty, too.
- Remington model 700 in .300 Weatherby, $700
- McMillan A-4 tactical stock, $500
- Advanced Armament Corporation 300-SD suppressor, $1,250
- Leupold Mark 4 16x40 riflescope, $1,300
- Harris HBRS 6-9" bipod, $100
- .300 Weatherby Magnum ammunition, 180 gr TSX, 4200fps, 100 rounds, $300
Yours most sincerely,
(I'm so going to hell...)
03 June, 2008
Walking Plague press releases. You've all done your planning for the apocalypse, right?
The Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, has today confirmed Avian Influenza in chickens on premises near Banbury in Oxfordshire after preliminary tests were positive for the H7 strain. All birds on the premises will be slaughtered as a precautionary measure.
Laboratory testing continues and results which will allow confirmation of whether the strain is high or low pathogenicity will follow. A detailed epidemiological investigation to better understand the origin and development of the disease is underway.
A Temporary Control Zone with a 3km inner zone and a 10km outer zone is being established around the Infected Premises. A number of measures apply. All birds must be housed or otherwise isolated from contact with wild birds in the inner zone. Bird gatherings are banned and all other movements of birds and some products are banned in the whole of the Temporary Control Zone. Defra is urgently considering whether any wider measures may be needed.
First, I'm not going to include the .50 BMG in this document because the guns are very expensive, the ammunition is very expensive, there are very few places to actually shoot them, and lastly, they're actually illegal in a lot of places.
So let me define "the problem": I have a .22-250 Rem 700, and while I've been getting it comfortably out to 600 yards, it starts to have real problems out past 600 with windage and bullet drop, and out to 1,000 yards, it's difficult to get it on the paper, let alone into a tight group. I've been trying to figure out the best rifle to replace (really, to augment) my current one.
I have a friend who presents this argument:
Basically, I trust four rounds: 9mm, .223, .308, and .50 BMG. My main weapon is my M4, my backup is my M9, and for intermediate range, what the M4 can't hit, the .308 can. Anything further than that, or for anti-materiel, there's no point in going smaller than a .50.
It's well thought-out, and I can completely understand why an operator would think that way. First off, you're not going to find much 300 Win in a firefight other than what you brought with you, and you're not going to have a firefight out at 1500 yds. Furthermore, it bears mentioning that your average operator is not going to be buying their kit: if somebody gives you an XM-107 or a MacBros Tac-50, by all means take it! For the rest of us, it's just not worth it.
Let's start with some ballistics. I'll attach the excel sheet and a pdf at the bottom.
At first, the muzzle velocity is misleading. In general we equate muzzle velocity with a "flat-shooting" round, with a great point-blank range (which is to say, it's going to be at roughly the same place at 100, 200, 300 yards; the 22-250 does more or less accomplish this). However, we see, when looking at the full range of data that the .338 Lapua (an incredibly powerful round, and substantially slower than the .22-250) has almost exactly the same ballistics out to 700 yards.
The question of ballistics is very important for a benchrest shooter. I'm not really going to spend any time hunting hajis, so I don't really need to worry about "terminal ballistics" or the amount of energy delivered to the target (I'll address it a little more in a bit).
So I was very surprised to see that there's only a 33.6% spread between the worst drop (.308 Win, 387.5") and the best drop (.300 Wby, 225.4"). This sounds like a big difference, but if we consider the 308 Winchester has a 30 foot drop, and the 300 Weatherby has a 20 foot drop, it hardly matters; you're not going to just guess your shot placement. If you see a silhouette in your mildot, and you're estimating 6' height, and he takes up two miliradians, you can guess that it's a thousand yards.
Okay, here's the math (imagine this in your head, as you're trying to place a shot on target about half a mile away): he's 6' tall, and he occupies 2 "dots." If you're using a 308 Win, you've got to aim "up" ten dots (or so, right – at this point, you're hoping to "get rounds on paper," not necessarily hit "center mass"), and that's not counting for windage at 1000 yds. But the guy only occupies two dots, and you've essentially placed him at the bottom of the reticle and the crosshairs substantially above him.
Chances are, if you just go with elevation, you're going to miss at least once, and your estimation of windage is going to be approximate since you can't really estimate the windage a thousand yards from where you are (let alone further) as the atmosphere does not provide homogenous flows. Even the much-vaunted world-record shot by Rob Furlong (2,430 meters/2,657 yards) was after two previous misses. How long is it going to take you to make the adjustments to the follow-on shot? Is your spotter that good? And before somebody mentions laser rangefinders, while the operators out there have much better equipment than your average benchrester, there's a limit to what the area surrounding your target can reflect (which is why rangefinders list a maximum effective range for "deer" and "reflective" targets).
Now, if you've been paying attention, at this point the .300 Weatherby Magnum and the .30-378 Weatherby Magnum are very interesting rounds, in that they have both nearly identical ballistics and a very flat trajectory. The primary difference between the two is going to be delivered energy, as the .30-378 sends a 168 grain (~11 grams) faster than the .300 Wby sends a 150 grain bullet (again, to almost exactly the same point). They're both noticeably better than the .300 Win, which is sometimes considered a step up from the .308 Win in tactical situations (before rounds like the .408 Chey-Tac and the .338 Lapua became popular), but not so much so that one could really justify the dramatically increased cost of the rounds and (especially in the case of the .30-378) the equally dramatically reduced barrel life.
Here's the full chart:
It really looks to me like the .300 Weatherby Magnum is the way to go, of all these rounds. If we look at the .338 Lapua, it's clearly a fierce round, but at 1000 yards, you're still going to have a flatter trajectory with the 300 Wby, and if you're not overly concerned with energy delivered to a target, it's pretty hard to deny the reduced cost of the 300 Wby ammunition and especially the rifles.
Another thing to consider, especially in the case of the .30-378 Weatherby and the Lapua is the recoil of both rifles. The 308 Win is pretty tame, the .22-250 and .25-06 are both pretty tame (depending on the rifle) and both 300 mags are pretty stout. I'm told (but haven't verified...) that the difference between the .300 Wby and the .30-378 Wby is an entire powder charge for a .30-06. That's just absurd. There's a crowd out there that are really into the enormous muzzle blast and scaring the neighbors, but it's pretty hard to deny that with such a tremendous bite, most shooters won't be as accurate, as they develop a flinch.
You could even go as far as to say that muzzle brakes for the BMG crowd are more effective than those given to the "smaller" ultra-mag rounds (like the 30-378, 300/338/378 Remington Ultra Mag, and the 338 Lapua) simply because the rifles would be unusable without said brakes.
Basically, a .300 Wby is just about the most rifle most people need (and one could say that a .300 Win is actually a better idea given cost and recoil) for targets at a thousand yards.
Also worth mentioning is that the .22-250, which I shoot a lot, has very reasonable drop ballistics. I don't have any equations for windage, but I suspect, upon looking at this, that windage is my primary problem at 600 yards.
So, a brief discussion of terminal energy is also necessary. For hunting small North American game, a ballistic tip ("pointy" vs "round" as you'd see in the case of a .458 Win or a .577 Tyr) motivated by any of the "magnum" rounds (with possibly the exception of the .308 Win, primarily due to its extreme bullet drop) is going to be effective out to 700 yards, give or take. The 300 Win Mag has 1200 ft-lbs of energy at 700 yards and 662 at 1000 yards. The 300 Weatherby Mag has 937 ft-lbs at 900 yards, and "only" 770 ft-lbs at 1000 yards.
Taking 650-750 ft-lbs of energy from a bullet with a cross-section of .308 is going to ruin anyone's day. It's probably irresponsible to engage larger targets (white tail deer and larger) with these rounds, at this range, but for tactical purposes, it's probably sufficient. The SEALs consider the .308 Win to be effective out to 1,500 yards, and I'm not sure it's going to have more than a few hundred ft-lbs at that range (for comparison, the .45 ACP +P rounds I prefer have about 400 ft-lbs at 100 yards, and 450 ft-lbs at the muzzle; using a long-distance tactical rifle to put handgun hits on somebody at 1,500 yards seems kind of feeble to me, but then I've never been into combat).
So what does all this actually mean, now that you've rambled on interminably about this?
Well, basically, I had been considering a .30-378 Weatherby Mag. I'd been considering it primarily because I wanted an ultra-mag, and I wanted to be more effective at 1,000 yards. It would seem that my .22-250 is having windage problems, my math isn't as bad as I thought it to be, and I really don't need the .30-378; the .300 Win or .300 Wby will work fine.
If I ever decide I need to go hunting for two-legged or four-legged beasties, it makes a lot more sense to just bump up to the .338 Lapua than getting a hopped-up .308 bullet, and for dangerous game, the .50 is most likely the way to go.
In the next episode of blabber with Alex, we'll compare and contrast ultra-ultra mags like the .338, .408 CT, .50 BMG, and the other wildcats out there (.300 Peg?). Until then, paper targets beware!
edit: here's that pdf and excel sheet. e2 also has a good page on the mil-dot.