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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'Bama and Brimstone

A return to a particular literary universe.

Interlude: Bama and Brimstone

My name is Esther Anna Sweethill. 

I was born in Selma, Alabama in 1945. 20 years later, I marched with Dr. King to the state capitol in Montgomery. Listening to him, I felt the power of strong words backed by a strong faith, and what could be accomplished by a man who believed in both. 

I felt love, too. I met my husband, Samuel, on that march. He gave me two beautiful boys -- after we were married, I'll have you know. 

Samuel went to Vietnam in 1968 and never came back. It was hard, being a widowed black woman raising two boys in the 1970s, but by God, and with His help, I did it. 

Neither of my children did drugs or became delinquents, praise Jesus. I loved them and I nagged them to be better.  I praised them when they did good and, yes, I spanked the devil out of them when they were wicked. 

None of them ever went to jail. Not a one. I told them, "If the police arrest you then you might as well plead guilty, because when I get you home I will take a switch to your hide like you've never seen and you'll never sit down again, and then I'm really gonna punish you."  I think they were more scared of me than they were of the police, and that suits me just fine. I had to be both mama and papa to my boys, and sometimes that meant I had to scare them back onto the Lord's path. 

They're all grown up now, and have fine families. My eldest, Jacob, went into construction. Nothing wrong with hard work, I told him, it's an honest days' work for an honest days' wage.  He started by digging ditches and now he's a foreman. He has a passel of girls now, all sweet and giggly. They're the apple of his eye, but they do task him. Serves him right, I tell him, for all the grief and hassle he caused me growing up!  His oldest, Ruth, is in college now. 

My youngest, Eli, went to college on scholarship, God bless him. First in my family ever to go, and the day he graduated I was so proud I was full to bursting. He does something with computers that I don't rightly follow, but that's fine -- he understands it well enough for both of us. He married this Indian girl called Parvati, and oh I did NOT approve of that, let me tell you!  I taught my boys to be God-fearing Christians, and then I see him taking up with this heathen!

I started to give him a piece of my mind, and you know what he said to me?  He said, "First Corinthians 7:16, mama."  Well, how do you like that? If my boy loves her enough to quote scripture at me, then I reckon he knows what he's doing, and I'll trust him.

I pray to Jesus for his marriage just the same, though. 

Oh, and their wedding!  We all flew to India for it, and while India is a heathen country that needs Jesus like you wouldn't believe, they're still some of the nicest folks you could ever meet.  And would you believe that they have elephants there?  And not in the zoo, either, but working like a farm horse! I got to ride on one which about made my year, let me tell, except for the fact that my baby was getting married and that was better... but only by a smidge, I say with a wink. Oh, I've always loved elephants, ever since I was a little girl, and never did I think I would get to meet one in person, let alone ride one. It was an adorable little baby, all fat and huggable, and did you know that baby elephants have hair?  I didn't!  They have this fine hair all over their backs that you can't see, but you can sure feel it, mmm-hmm. 

Afterwards, Parvati's mother gave me something called a "garnish." She heard how much I loved elephants and so gave me a little doll of the cutest little cartoon elephant. He's wearing the cutest little hat, and one of his tusks is broken and it reminds me of my boys when they were losing their baby teeth and went around all snaggletoothed. 

She said it would be bring me luck, but I don't know about that. I lost my savings not too long ago. I don't rightly know how it happened -- I said I don't properly understand computers, recall? -- but according to Eli I clicked on something I shouldn't have and next I know, my credit's run up and my money's gone and my identity's stolen. Lordy!  Why would anyone want to be me so bad they'd steal who I was?

But just when I think I have to go live with one of my boys, I get a telephone call from a nice man called Mister Netty, and he says he's figured out what's happened and who's to blame and how to fix it. 

No fool I, I ask what the catch is for fixing it. 

Mister Netty, he says "If I tell you there's no catch you'll think I'm lying to you. So what if I told you that you could help punish the people who did this to you, and stop others like them from doing it to other people?"

"How could I help with that?"  I ask. "I'm just an old lady in her sixties. I'm a grandma!"

He says, "You're a mother, and these criminals are naughty children that need a good spanking. And when you are filled with righteous indignation, Miss Esther, you're terrifying."  Well, how could I say no to that?   

And so here I am, driving around the country in my old car. Yevgeny  is a special boy -- God love him, he's special -- but it's nice to feel like a mama to someone again. I don't know if Yevvy was ever properly mothered, but if there's a way to make up for it, I will. He's got a good heart, even if it doesn't really know how to connect to folk sometimes. 

And then there's Reecy, who I swear is the Lord's way of testing my patience. She is surly and difficult and wicked and hateful, and I could almost hate her back if I couldn't see just how badly life's hurt her. Maybe if I'm patient enough and loving enough and kind enough -- Lord, give me strength! -- she'll trust me enough to open up to me and maybe she'll let that love into her heart to cover up all that pain she carries. 

Of course, before I do all that, I have to get through this right here. 

My name is Esther Anna Sweethill.  I am sixty-three years old. I raised two children on my own, survived being widowed, and came back from losing everything.  

I'm in my nightgown, and my hotel room is on fire. 

And there is no way in hell that I'm letting an Asian devil-child in a pink skirt and cat ears shoot me to death.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Gunday: Rewarding Good Customer Service

Given Linoge's recent (and, sadly, not-so-recent) problems with Remington customer service, I felt it incumbent upon me to recognize exemplary customer service when I see it.

Two weeks ago I was at the range with my Sub-2000, re-zeroing my red dot sight after removing the rail system and replacing it with one from Red Lion Precision  (a review of which will be forthcoming) when I went to load another magazine and discovered that my cocking handle had just... disappeared. Subsequent investigation discovered it slightly downrage with all the ejected brass.

This in itself was not too surprising, as I've managed to break one of the cocking handles before (albeit through my own mis-engineering). The design has an inherent flaw, which I shall attempt to describe through prose and pictures since I don't have a cutaway drawing of internal S2K mechanics.

The S2K uses direct blowback in its operation. The bolt (right) attaches to what I am calling the bolt carrier (center) by means of a tongue-and-groove layout. (The bolt rolled onto its back due to weight, so this is not actually how it goes into the gun. For purposes of explanation, however, I hope it suffices.)

The cocking handle (below) sticks through a hole in the bolt carrier, and is held in place by the tension of the recoil spring (above) against the end cap (left).

Now, in order for the spring to index against the handle, the handle is thinned out to match the diameter of the spring (see below).  Unfortunately, since the handle reciprocates along with the entire bolt assembly after each shot, there will be stress put upon the handle, and since it's not uniformly thick, it's prone to breaking at its thinnest area

As I said, this wasn't terribly surprising, but it was disappointing; I had been using the extended cocking handle made by Twisted Industries that I received back in January of 2013, and up until this point it had performed flawlessly. What surprised me was that I didn't feel it fly off!  I would have assumed that the break would occur at either full retraction or full extension, and yet I didn't feel the broken handle strike my shoulder or my operating arm. I suppose it broke as the bolt slammed home, and then just fell towards my feet and rolled into the brass just ahead of the shooting position.

I don't know if just was just good luck on my part, or good engineering on the part of Kel-Tec and/or Twisted Industries, but either way I'm grateful that this breakage didn't result in injuries.

On the good side, at least I got my red dot zeroed:

Upon arriving back home, I got on Facebook and whined a bit about having a broken part... and then I contacted Harry Perrette, my buddy at Twisted Industries, to see about getting a new one:

Me: Hey Harry, today while at the range my TI extended cocking handle broke and fell out of my Sub-2000. Has this ever happened before? [pictures attached]  Do you have any sort of replacement service?
Harry: Yeah, that's why we made them. It's common. Email me your address, we have an updated one. You want stainless or black?
Me: Black please. Do you happen to know how many hundred rounds before it typically fails?
Harry: New ones don't fail.
Me: Excellent. Thanks for your prompt response. I'll talk you up for having good customer service!

And so, by the next week, I had in my hands the newest version of the Twisted Industries Sub-2000 Operating Handle!  A quick look at the redesign certainly explains Harry's claims that it won't fail:  instead of
being thinned all the way around (easy to do on a lathe, but at the expense of weakening the metal) a flat surface is milled out of one side.  

This surface gives the recoil spring something to index against, while hopefully keeping the column stronger. 

This design does have the very slight drawback of needing to make sure the handle is oriented the right way during assembly, but I'll take an additional second or two of inconvenience in return for a promise of "won't ever fail" any day of the week.

But will it not ever actually fail, though?  Well, that remains to be determined.  TI's old handle lasted a year and several hundred rounds -- between 250 and 500, I'd estimate. Going forth from here, I'm going to try to keep closer records of number of rounds put through my S2K, and IF this new operating handle fails, I'll let you know.

Until then, I'm quite happy with mine, and I encourage any Sub-2000 owner to purchase a TI Operating Handle. They cost between $24.99 for the graphite black version and $29.99 for a stainless steel version.

Picture from the TI website.
Included here because of the awesome "pile of empty brass" quote etched onto the tube. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

This Actually Happened

I keep telling people I am a massive nerd, and yet whenever a situation where I need to demonstrate that fact arises, they usually look startled or surprised at the breadth of my nerdiness.

Case in point:

Today I was at my church like I am every Thursday, arranging the powerpoint display for the hymns we sing. After I finish up, I go to the church office (to tell them that I'm done and to turn in my folder) where I encounter our church secretary talking to some woman I'd never seen before.

"This is Erin," the secretary introduces me. "She does our powerpoint."

"Pleased to meet you, Erin," says the stranger as she shakes my hand. And when she introduces herself, I swear that I hear her say her name is "Aykaysha."

(I suppose I ought to state for the record that this lady had a complexion that could have been Hispanic, could have been Asian Indian, or could have been just really tan.)

"Cool name!" I said, smiling. "I like it."

She gives me a funny look. "Normally when people say that, they have something to say, or something to ask. You look like you have something to ask."

I thought about this for a moment. "I have to warn you," I warned her. "I am a MASSIVE nerd. Do you really want to hear it?"


"Okay," I say, smiling. "So, I assume that your parents are fond of Eastern philosophy? Hinduism, Buddhism, etc?"

She gives me the oddest look, like I'm suddenly speaking in tongues: tilts her head, blinks several times, opens her jaw and works her mouth wordlessly. "... why?" she finally manages to ask.

"Akasha is the Sanskrit word for aether. You know... the metaphysical fifth element? No-space and no-time?  The source and location of ancestral memory?"

She shakes her head. "A-K-A-S-H-A."  I spell it out as if that will explain things. "Your name is Ay-kay-sha, right?  Akasha, Aykaysha?"

She wrinkles her nose like I'm poop on her shoe and says, slowly and deliberately, "My name is spelled A-C-A-C-I-A."

"oh like the tree,"  I say in a small voice, sinking into my chair. "well nevermind then." 

The Fine Print

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