Blog

Ultrasonic Cleaning of Brass Rocks!

Posted on: 2010-03-16 19:40:11

After reading "Jason Baney's article on ultrasonic brass cleaning":http://www.6mmbr.com/ultrasonic.html, it's hard not to try it out. Cabela's cheapest "brass tumbler kit":http://www.cabelas.com/p-0012554212869a.shtml costs $63. I was able to find <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Foffer-listing%2FB001DKDAVW%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Ddp%5Folp%5Fnew%26qid%3D1268540550%26sr%3D8-1-catcorr%26condition%3Dnew&tag=nickvaha-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957">an inexpensive ultrasonic jewelry cleaner<img src="https://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=nickvaha-20&l=ur2&o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /> on Amazon for under $30.

I'll be honest, it's not the best little thing. It only runs for 3 minutes at a time (so you have to keep pressing the button) but luckily I don't need it to run that long and since I'm mainly doing 9mm and .380 at the moment, I can fit a lot more brass in a much smaller container.

In his article, Baney cleaned 8x fired brass cases. I'm pretty sure mine are only 1x or 2x fired. After about 9 minutes in the first cycle, the first batch was done. I skipped the tap and distilled water cycles, too, opting instead to just rinse them under the tap. The results are below:

h3. Before

!/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/brass_dirty.jpg!

h3. After

!/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/brass_cleaned.jpg! !/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/brass_cleaned_2.jpg!

Needless to say, my results were exactly in line with his! Many, many thanks to Mr. Baney for his wonderful article and the time it took him to research and test it all.

Now to scour eBay for a larger (or at least time-programmable) ultrasonic cleaner!

Update: I wanted to add that after cleaning a few more rounds that the results are not always as amazing as the ones I took pictures of. The first batch was small (~38 rounds) and with larger batches not all of the brass looks this pretty after 9 minutes of the vinegar bath and 6 minutes of the baking-soda + water bath. The outsides still look very clean, but the insides are still little dirty around the flash hole. However, it's not dirty enough to warrant cleaning them again.

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Finally: Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 Upgrade of our Production Intranet

Posted on: 2010-03-15 16:46:32

Since getting to RVOS, a lot of my focus has been on improving things. Improving the network (new APs, redundant switches), infrastructure downtime (40+ hours a week to <2hrs a week), improving applications (bugfixes on custom apps), and in general, the way business is done.

Our intranet went live in Q3 of 2007, when "Drupal 6 was still -beta1":http://drupal.org/node/175832. Right after we went live, I tried to upgrade and failed miserably. Ultimately, the idea got pushed to the back burner over and over for several years until roughly 2 weeks ago.

I figured this would be somewhat easy since most of the modules now have 6.x counterparts. This assumption probably would have been true if I was updating a simple Drupal site. However, Views, Panels, and all of our custom modules have been throwing me for a loop.

Here's just a snapshot of what I've found so far:

  1. Upgraded Panels that had views had to be rebuilt after *cough* manually converting the Views. This doesn't bother me so much, but it's still painful on over 40 custom views.
  2. All of my blocks were automatically disabled after the upgrade.
  3. The groups part of \"LDAP integration module\":http://drupal.org/project/ldap_integration doesn't upgrade properly. The names of the columns in 5.x start with ldap_groups_ but in 6.x they start with ldapgroups_. I'd work on a patch, but I'm just not sure how to actually 'rename' a column with the whole \"Schema API\":http://api.drupal.org/api/group/schemaapi/6 in Drupal 6.
  4. LDAP integration also breaks customizations. To do custom mapping of OUs to Roles, you had to edit a config file in the 5.x version. In 6.x, it's a configuration parameter in the admin area. That's actually great, but pretty much ruins any chance of automating it besides writing a custom module to stick that value in there (which I'm doing.)
  5. Errors, errors everywhere. Most of them appeared to be benign, but seeing several hundred errors flood out of an update script can be very unnerving.
  6. Running the update script felt like Windows Update. Had to re-run it five or six times before it finally got everything. Probably due to the above.

Anyhoo, now that I've vented, let the progress commence again!

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Intricacies of the Lee Press

Posted on: 2010-03-12 11:08:12

Got my "Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press Anniversary Kit":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/?productnumber=423081 this week.

Here is a comixed version of my experience:

!/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/comixed_reloading.jpg!

h2. What really happened...

h3. I didn't read the directions

My buddy uses the Hornady "Handbook of Cartridge Reloading":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/?productnumber=438424 and their "kit":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewproduct/?productnumber=749997 to do his reloading. A lot of my experience and workflow was based off of my experience with his gear. This doesn't exactly apply to the Lee kit.

Read all of the instructions. Twice. This will solve most of your problems and save you some time.

h3. Handgun reloaders are second-class citizens with this kit

The aforementioned kit comes with "everything" you need to reload... minus the dies. In practice, however, it doesn't seem that statement applies to 9mm, .380, and any other round that has an extremely short case:

  1. The \"chamfer & deburring tool\":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewproduct/?productnumber=389104 doesn't work for handgun rounds. Perhaps it would work for .38 special since the shell is quite a bit longer. The problem is that you can't hold onto the round, it goes all the way into the tool. Go get an \"RCBS Chamfer & Deburring tool\":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewproduct/?productnumber=143728. It works *much* better.
  2. The \"powder funnel\":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/?productNumber=974498 is also not very friendly to the smaller cases[1]. If you put the case on the table (or in a loading block) and put the funnel over the case and pour the powder, the powder gets all over the place. Not very usable at all. This one is a bit easier to resolve. Simply cut about about 3/8 in. of the bottom of the funnel off, sand it off with 300 and then 600 grit sandpaper... and it should work much better.

h3. I didn't take my time

An "Impact Bullet Puller":http://www.midwayusa.com/viewproduct/?productnumber=215517 is awesome. It's the reloading "undo" tool. In my rush to get some ammo loaded, I forgot to calibrate the scale. As a result, those rounds are probably a grain or two too hot. A couple extra grains in a rifle round might not hurt if you are loading starting loads. But an extra grain even at a starting load for a handgun could damage your gun... or your hand.

Trying to get the powder measure to the right setting for a 4.6 grain load took probably 5 or 6 minutes. Measure, weight, dump, repeat. You can't rush this folks. It's no wonder my friend bought himself an electronic scale.

fn1. You can sort of get around this by using the powder-through-sizing die, but that adds an extra step to an already tedious process.

h2. Praise for the Lee Kit

Let's talk about the good stuff. In fact, now that it's all set up the way it needs to be, it feels much faster than the other kit.

h3. Perfect Powder Measure

The powder measure does seem to be very accurate. I went from measuring every load to every 5 (and as the trust grows) every 10 to 20 rounds. It can take a while to get it calibrated (resorting to trial and error), but once it's set... well... it's set.

h3. Safety Prime

The dual-action de-prime/full length size/re-prime on a single stroke is very nice. On my buddy's Hornady kit, this is a two step process... de-prime on the press then prime by hand. The press also has a funnel for spent primers where they go through a tube to a trash can (or they collect in the tube.)

Also, the "shake to upright the primers" on the safety prime really works. Very quick and easy, that thing.

h3. Overall construction

No problems with the dies. The kit feels very solid. The wooden handle is very nice. Doesn't feel cheap. Some of the plastic components do feel a little cheap, but they nonetheless perform well.

Anyway. These are my thoughts on it now. Let's see where we are in... oh... 2 or 3 months.

Final result (click for fun):

"!/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/finished_rounds.jpg!":/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/comixed_finale.jpg

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How To Stop Your Shoei Helmet's Whistling Problem

Posted on: 2010-03-03 07:59:49

I finally replaced a ZAMP helmet that I had received when purchasing my old bike with a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002XNP9WG?ie=UTF8&tag=nickvaha-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002XNP9WG">Shoei RF 1100 Firestrike<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=nickvaha-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B002XNP9WG" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />.

This is a great helmet. The only problem was that it whistled at 60+ mph. Turns out that all you have to do is make a couple of adjustments to make it stop.

<img src="/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/Shoet helmet adjustments.jpg" style="width: 100%" />

  1. Push against these clips on both sides to remove the face shield.
  2. Loosen (do not remove!) these screws. About a half-turn is all you need.
  3. Push the whole shield assembly towards the back of the helmet.
  4. Hold the assembly and tighten the screws in step 2.

That's it! The shield should be held against the gasket properly and there should be no more whistling.

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One More Reason to Support MidwayUSA

Posted on: 2010-03-02 09:07:32

"Midway USA":http://midwayusa.com/ is a business out of Columbia, MO that has "just about everything for Shooting, Reloading, Gunsmithing, and Hunting." At 2nd Annual TSRA Foundation Banquet, they "donated $100,000 for TSRA youth shooting programs":http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3962944.

That is awesome. They've never been a disappointment to me either, and it is great to see someone who gives back to the communities that support them!

Support "Midway USA":http://midwayusa.com/!

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Questions About Abortion

Posted on: 2010-02-15 23:32:40

These questions are for people who consider themselves pro-abortion (aka "pro-choice") and affiliate themselves with a Christian denomination.

I have seen the following reasons why a pregnant mother should consider an abortion:

Danger to the mother

Danger to the fetus

Lack of financial responsibility money

Unwillingness or inability to properly care for child

That's it's not a baby

True freedom of the mother

Abusive partner's control

Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies (rape or incest)

So... where exactly does God's providence and sovereignty fit in? As Christians we can all agree that God is sovereign, right? A quick search notes about 300 places in the bible where He is called Sovereign Lord.

If we are His created, and he is Sovereign over creation, then He is sovereign, that is, having a royal dominion and power over us... determining His affairs in our daily lives... over us. If He is over us, and "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) then surely He knows things we don't know. He has plans for us that we cannot even fathom.

We are created in His image. He is the potter, we are the clay. We could not be made without Him. So, too, could our children, who are also made in His image, not be made without Him? They have to in order to be made in His image, do they not? If He was not a part of them and didn't bestow His image onto them, they would not be made in His image, would they?

So if we are His and they are His and the Lord is sovereign over us then surely he is also sovereign over them: mother and child alike. And since God came before all, and formed us from the dirt, on the first try, surely that means that he knew us before we had taken form. We as a race were conceived in His mind first, before being created. So, too, are not all children conceived in His mind before they were created? God didn't create man, mess up, and start over again! He got it right the first time. He had a plan.

So if God has a plan for that child, whom He knew before conception, then how on earth can abortion be justified? How can you be certain that this child isn't meant for something great? If the mother or child is in danger: do you not trust God to protect those lives? I mean, if the child is in danger, what is the big deal if it's "just a fetus" to let the mother try to carry to term? Do you not trust that the Lord is sovereign over the whole situation? The same goes for non-Christians: are you saying that the Lord can't be sovereign over all for them? Is the Old testament's chronicle of Sarah's giving birth to Isaac not proof enough that God is not only capable of controlling a woman's reproductive system, but will, for His glory, not only control it but will protect the mother and child for his purposes?

Is it "just a fetus?" The bible makes it pretty clear that all of creation was known before it came into being, and not just in Genesis. The world was created once and only once, because He knew it before it was made and it was Good! Jesus was preached about for hundreds of years before his coming. Prophesy is exactly that -- telling the future before it happens. You cannot say that God is incapable of knowing each and every child before they are born. That would be too limiting to an all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-loving God who created everything we know!

In the same way, over all of the perceived problems that a potential mother or family might have, is it not... showing a distrust of God to want to take matters into your own hands? Is it not claiming to the Lord, "I am in control, not you! I do not trust that you will provide for me and my child." If that's not it, then what is it?

Consider this: Your wife consents to an abortion because of a problem endangering her life if she continues to carry the child to term. She has the abortion, but then her life is taken from her in a car-wreck. What was gained? Is not her life not her own, but God's own life to do with as He wills? The same as my life, your life, and all of the other lives on this home-away-from-home? If he can take a life, surely he can save a life.

I'm really curious about this. I can't stop thinking about it. What in scripture leads people to believe that abortion (in any form) is okay?

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Getting a java.io.CharConversionException with pdftk while using MAMP?

Posted on: 2010-02-05 10:08:10

Man, talk about a frustrating problem! I kept getting this errors while calling pdftk (from the mac installer, which the version as of this writing is 1.12):

Unhandled Java Exception: java.io.CharConversionException <>

Anyway, after much hair pulling, the answer was found! Before calling "shell_exec":http://php.net/shell_exec (or whatever function you use to call pdftk) you need to unset the DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable.

<code lang="php"># unset this so pdftk will work! putenv('DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH');

put the output in a variable

$pdf_data = shell_exec('/usr/local/bin/pdftk '. $file_name .' fill_form '. $fdf_fn. ' output - flatten');

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Attaway, Outrage, and Prediction for Week 1, 2010

Posted on: 2010-01-08 08:42:56

I listen to "AFR Talk":http://action.afa.net/Radio/ in the morning on the way to work... specifically the "Matt Friedeman Show":http://inthefight.wbs.edu/, and every Friday morning they do "Attaway awards, outrages of the week, and a prediction for the days to come."

Since my commute is only roughly about 7-10 minutes, I figured that I'd start documenting it here instead of trying to call in... so here we go!

h3. Attaway Award

Gotta go to "Brit Hume":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brit_Hume when on the Fox News Network, told everyone watching that

bq. The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith, he’s said to be a Buddhist, I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith, so.. my message to Tiger would be, “Tiger, turn your faith–turn to the Christian faith, and you can make a total recovery and be a GREAT example to the world.”

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/szVYlDSb7nM&hl=en_US&fs=1&"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/szVYlDSb7nM&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344">

There have been a whole slew of people beating him up over it. A "Haredi community was asked to speak out against his comments":http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2010/01/jerusalem-spitting-brit-hume-christianity-evangelism-/1. People are "calling him intolerant":http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/07/AR2010010703244.html and are "asking him to apologize":http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2010/01/08/20100108frilets087.html and "take a class in religions."

Brit Hume explains himself more in a "Q&A Article in Christianity Today":http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/januaryweb-only/11-42.0.html. The fact that he is getting lashed at by other proves that God is at work here. If we all were so lucky!

h3. Outrage

During his presidential campaign, "Obama promised to put the Healthcare negotiations on C-SPAN":http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/06/eveningnews/main6064298.shtml. Now he wants them to be secret. Downright shameful.

h3. Prediction

It's going to be a "cold weekend":http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=76502. Also, the "cold weather will cause big media to forget about Global Warming":http://noteviljustwrong.com/blog/general/317 for a little while, until it's time to push their agenda again.

I would encourage you to post your attaway, outrage, and prediction each week and share them with us.

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My First (contributed) Drupal Module: Permission Report

Posted on: 2009-12-29 16:17:12

Very proud to announce my first contributed drupal module! "Permission Report":http://drupal.org/project/usage/permission_report:

bq. Permission Report calculates and displays permissions a user has and shows which roles grant those permissions. It also provides ability to list users in a role, look at role membership information, view which users have a particular permission, and dig down into complicated role and permission problems.

Hope that this is the first of many contributions to come!

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From Mindless to Mindful

Posted on: 2009-12-23 16:06:24

Looking at the internet though the eyes of a web designer while browsing the web is a lot sitting at a high school lunch table with a bunch of the "preppy girls":http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=preppy%20girls. You judge everything. It's instinctual. You know all the latest tools, lingo, and trends. Everything gets evaluated by how it appears. Sure, finding that a site runs on a certain language/platform/cms/framework or uses a certain library/flash component/technology can be interesting when it doesn't meet your expectations, but let's face it: Everything gets judged by how it looks and performs to our standards.

And those are pretty high.

Every time I visit any website, whether it's big or small, low- or big-budget, corporate or homegrown, it goes through a rigorous set of evaluations that happen in the background while I'm purchasing, researching, or just plain looking around. I do this because as a web guy myself, I tend to be "mindful":http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Mindful or "aware" of all of these things going on behind the scenes.

Awareness of what is going on around you is always a good thing. It's required by people on a daily basis. We are all called to be mindful on a daily basis. We get paid to be mindful when we notice a mistake that needs to be corrected before getting published online or in print. We get rewarded for being mindful when we send our wives flowers on anniversaries (or for no occasion at all!). We feel a little bit safer when we see a police officer walking around being mindful of the environment and looking out for danger.

With all of this reward and need for being so mindful all of the time, why is it that we have become such a mindless society?

It seems like hardly a few hours go by where someone, somewhere has to make reference some sort of "jingle":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jingle, "slogan":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_slogans or some other such bite-sized talking point used to sell or influence someone or something into changing their behavior. Sure, the change might be to get someone to go to Jack in the Box instead of Wendy's. It still achieves it's purpose. We mindlessly receive, consume, and slowly change our behavior.

This isn't a bad thing, though, right? I mean, chances are you were going to go out to eat somewhere why not make one place instead of the other. Chances are unless you've built up some unnatural amount of distrust or distaste for someone or something, you'll probably be swayed to try it at some point.

Take me and McDonalds for instance. I despise McDonalds. I dislike them so much I won't even take my wife or step-daughter there. The closest I get to one is the Red box outside when the one down the street doesn't work. Their advertising is horrible and cheesy. I'm "not the only one that feels this way":http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=lovin_it, either. Their "McLatte" radio ads turned the fire against them so bad, I smell ashes every time I drive by.

But I've been down this road before and I'll be down it again. Probably within the next year or so, I'll have one of those days where I suddenly become stupid and say to myself, "Maybe I'm wrong about McDonalds. Maybe their 'McLattes' are actually worth checking out and perhaps having a McRib and fries wouldn't cause me to get sick." And so I'll go to McDonalds, have my 10 minutes of omnomnomnom and then i'll take another 3 to 5 year trip to regretsville via the experience express. All because of those stupid, incessant, carefully placed, disturbingly bad yet catchy jingles that bombard me whenever I happen to leave the radio, TV, or stray browser window on.

Why can't I be mindful about those things as I am with other websites? Why can't I approach conversations with the same well-thought out and emotionally balanced arguments I generally have with people I trust? Why can't I filter out crappy advertisements for food I know I'll regret eating later on? Why is it that I find myself singing songs in my head that are inappropriate/stupid/or otherwise meaningless? Why do I see others doing the same thing? Why does it feel like I don't have any control over this?

Why am I not mindful on a weekly/daily/hourly basis of the fact that Christ died for my sins, the sins of my brothers/sisters, and for all humanity? Why can't I see that everyone is just like me: lost without Him? Why can't I look at problems and ask the right questions? Why do I look to myself for answers instead of to the Truth? Why do I not always seek Light when I see darkness approaching? Why do I not yearn for the Word as if it were my only sustaining source?

Why do I always seem to treat Jesus like the friend I call when I've tried everyone else and nobody has answered?

These questions keep me up at night. I take some comfort in that seeking him is better than not seeking him at all. I know that Prayer should be my first line of defense, not my last bastion of hope.

So here it is: I want to be a mindful person. Not just when I'm browsing websites. Mindful all the time. Mindful of my thoughts, words, actions, emotions, and what is going on around me. Mindful of what the God who saved me might have me do for Him or on His behalf while I'm here to put Him first and myself second that He might be glorified.

I want my mindless life to be transformed into a mindful life. Aware. Awake. Not asleep.

What do you want your life to be?

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