Never happened!

The Hobbit / Smaug. You can sit watching it and shout “Never Happened!” all. the. damn. time. and you’d be right more often than not.

OK, you also need “no FSCKING WAY!”, especially when barrels are involved. But impossible as it is, that also Never Happened.

Dayumn. There’s a book. And there’s a movie. And there’s a correlation with the name and most many of the characters.

Hell no.


(And is it just me or did they skimp on the CGI? Some of those wargs reminded me of Apple ][ games, just a bit)






Gemsbok chili

I learned to make chili from the Foodie Handbook. It calls for beans and plenty paprika. We like beans in our chili. And get your paprika from the good guys, that brown stuff from Robertson is useless.

So while digging through the freezer, I found a hunk of meat labelled “silverside”. I thought it was eland but when I started working with it I realised it’s gemsbok. Half of it went into a tomato bredie with the other half earmarked for a curry of some sort. Put it in a bowl, covered it with buttermilk, left it in the freezer overnight.

Found this recipe for venison chili (the one halfway down with the “crab bake” which I don’t have and didn’t use). Adapted it a bit.

Olive oil + butter in the flat bottom black pot, shake most of the buttermilk off the meat, fry the meat in batches and remove. Fry two chopped onions, one green pepper, about a tablespoon of garlic. Add the meat back in, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tin of kidney beans, a tin of borlotti beans and a tin of red beans (that’s what I had in the cupboard). I used less chili powder than the recipe calls for, small people in the house. Three four heaped tablespoons paprika, tin of tomato paste, heaped teaspoon cayenne. Some mixed spice and a tablespoon chicken stock powder. And some herbs, can’t remember what, probably rosemary. Add fresh (well, fresh from the freezer in this case) danja right at the end, serve with creme fraiche if you have (we didn’t, used normal cream).

It could have cooked for longer but we were hungry. That’s also why there are no pictures.


I suggest all of y’all out in the meme-o-sphere start using “slap the tree” in place of “jump the shark“.

How I met your mother should have been canned last season.

Christmas cooking 2013

I can really recommend Pioneer Woman’s turkey brine, two-step roasting process, and turkey gravy.

Ree says she uses a 20 pound turkey — that’s huge. The biggest turkey I could find was about 3 1/2 kilograms, call it 10 pounds. It fed seven of us, with enough meat left over to make turkey stroganoff (strongly recommended recipe) while leaving the drumsticks for whoever wants to gnaw on them.

The “10 minutes per pound” rule of thumb is only linear around 20 pounds, I guess, because at the end of the 100 minutes my turkey was already clocking 160 degrees. Maybe the thermostat is off.  So I cranked the oven down a bit while boiling the gammon, and the little red jobbie popped up pretty much when I needed the oven for Yorkshire Pudding. Which isn’t a pudding but the brits have strange names for things. Came out pretty well.

This is the only pic I have — it got a bit busy in the kitchen.

Gammon: 1.8 kilograms, browned, covered 3/4 with water, 20 minutes / lb, then stuck in the oven to brown. Nothing funny.

I had some complaints about the gravy. Well, one complaint. There wasn’t nearly enough of it. What I did was to Maillard an onion in the slow cooker for an hour or so, then I added the giblets and water and cooked it overnight. Used the pan drippings, some flour, and the stock to make the gravy. Unlike Pioneer Woman I didn’t add the giblets to the gravy, all the flavour was in the stock already.


Avo Model 9 Mk II

My parents bought this Avometer for me at a boot sale when I was most likely still in primary school. It didn’t work, of course. But it’s a neat piece of kit.

I remembered about it again the other day and went to find it in the attic where I do quite a bit of stowing.

A few decades worth of dirt.

Some cleaning and some googling and…

Hey! It’s a year older than I am (366 = March 1966).

I’ve never even seen one of the 15V batteries for sale anywhere, so these batteries have been in here since before I got the meter. And most of the time I’ve had it was spent in a hot attic. The batteries are flat, of course, but I would have expected things to look a whole lot worse.

Now I distinctly remember that I tried to find out what’s wrong with this meter, and at the time I concluded that the movement was not working. Well, it turns out that there’s nothing wrong with the movement. This is great news. Anything else is easier to fix than a d’Arsonval movement.

Here’s the damage. This is the 42.2 ohm resistor between the 10mA and 100mA taps on the DC switch (see the schematic at the end of the user manual) and I would say that it’s maximum power rating was exceeded…

I will see whether I can find or make or devise a replacement*, and I’ll clean up the outside.

Please, if you have one of these, be nice to it, don’t gut the insides like this poepol did.

* Believe it or not, 42.2 Ohm is an E96 value, but I might need a higher wattage and I’d probably end up putting ten 422 Ohm 1% resistors in parallel. Edit: Six 470 ohm, six 560 ohm, and one 4k7 in parallel makes 42.2065 which is good enough for me.

(Edit: link to balancing the movement)

300 WinMag

And so it came to pass that I found myself badly in need* of a flat rifle. Not one that’s been under a truck, mind, but one with a flat trajectory, for use at distances further than the 100m or so that my collection of leverguns are capable of.

So I asked around, and found a new barreled action in 300 WinMag. Perfect. Got an endorsement letter (as a dedicated hunter) from Kaapjag, applied for the licence, waited about four months, got the licence and the gun.

Reading up on the Howa, I came across this page which explains how to adjust the trigger. But the first step is, take the whole thing apart and clean it up. Get the gunk out, and also lightly sand the relevant surfaces to smooth things out.

[When I find the pictures I took I’ll post them here. I suspect they’re on a memstick that crashed. Suffice to say, the inside of the trigger assembly was dirty!]

Johan van Niekerk out in Plattekloof makes awesome stocks. Unfortunately he didn’t have a template for the long Howa action, only for the short one. So I had to wait while he ordered a stock from the ‘states to use as a template. Took from February until June, but I am way happy with the result.

He epoxy bedded the action, put in two aliminium pillars where the action screws go through the stock, and added two crossbolts (you can see the holes, roughly in line with the scope rings).

The scope is a 3-9 Redfield Revolution with the Accu-Range BDC reticle.

Load development

A factory round is made to a specification — typically that set by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI). When handloading, you have a bit more leeway — your hard limits are not the paper specification, but the actual rifle in your hands.

1. Pick a bullet. Every time you change the bullet, you have to revisit all the points below. In my case, I picked the Sierra 180 grain Game King. While the Match King might be more accurate, I’m developing a hunting load here, and in general match bullets are totally unsuited to hunting.

2. Cartridge Overall Length (COL). The cartridge has to fit in the chamber of the gun. The bullet can’t protrude to where the lands of the rifling starts, because it takes the pressure of the exploding powder to force the bullet into those lands and grooves, engraving the lands on the bullet which then impart spin on it.

In general, it’s good to seat the bullet about 10 thou (0.001″ 0.010″ or a quarter of a millimeter) away from where it would contact the lands, so that it has a short “jump” before it hits the rifling. Varying this distance can also improve accuracy.

There’s also a second hard limit that’s sometimes overlooked, and that is that you preferably want your ammo to fit in your magazine. Sometimes, this is not a problem, and there’s plenty space in the magazine, other times, not so much.

So, step the first. Load a bullet in an empty case, just deep enough to hold it in place. See whether this combination fits in your chamber. If not, seat the bullet a little deeper until you can close the bolt. Measure the COL, either to the tip of the bullet or (better) using something like a Stoney Point bullet comparator.

This is the maximum length cartridge that will fit my chamber — about 3.540″. The caliper shows the SAAMI spec 300 WinMag COL of 3.340″. The Howa has a very long throat, obviously.

So far so good, but does this monstrosity fit in the magazine? Not a chance.

Step the second. Continue seating the bullet until it fits in your magazine.

There we go. That fits my magazine.

Notice the other nice thing? All other things being equal (hint: they never are) you want the whole neck of the case to be in contact with the bullet, which means that it should be aligned with the parallel sides of the bullet, which start just after the boat tail and at some stage stop being parallel by turning into the bullet ogive. The pic above shows the IMO optimal seating depth relative to the case neck for a boat tail bullet. Further in and you’re encroaching on your powder space, also at some stage the front end of the case neck stops contacting the bullet (not really an issue with a short neck like this, more of an issue with something like the 30-30). Further out and not all of the case neck is gripping the bullet.

3. Pick a load. The general rule of thumb is, get as many data points as possible, then start low and work up. The Somchem manual lists 60.8 to 67.5 grains S365, 67.5 to 75 grains S361 and 68.5 to 73.5 grains S385 for a 180 grain bullet. I started at 66.6 grains S365 and worked up to 69 grains. The first (3 shot) group was just under an inch at 100m, but a bit slow at 2880 fps. More powder didn’t really give better groups, until the groups started opening up at 68 grains and 2980 fps.

So I switched to S385. 74 grains (which is over the Somchem max, I know) gave 3040 fps and this:

Yes, I know. It’s a fluke. But it’s a pretty fluke.

* People would argue, but I’m calling it a need, so there.

The slow unwinding.

There was a time when a (well-do-do, granted) man-in-the-street could travel at twice the speed of sound, 18km above the earth, as often as he wanted. Ten years ago today, we lost that. The Concorde made its last passenger flight.

This quote, from ten years ago, hits it right on the button:

The Roman Empire crested at Hadrian’s Wall and thereafter retreated slowly, step-by-step, so gradually that few people noticed that with every year, there was a little less.

The Western Empire, did we crest at the Moon? If we did, surely the death of Concorde is akin to the last of Rome’s Legions departing Britain. And the most troubling sign is not that Concorde is no more, but that we watch it’s passing with such complacency.

We’re throwing away the future. We have seen the stars, and meekly followed the State back to our mud puddles and sandboxes.

Then, in 2011, the Space Shuttle made its last flight ever. With no replacement.

Right now, we have people like SpaceX and Virgin working hard to get back to where we were. Back into space, back on the moon (we were last there in 1972 — are you spotting the pattern here?) and beyond.

I fear that we are living at the crest, and I hope that I am wrong.


(This blog post partly inspired* by Spider Robinson’s In the Olden Days (pdf and online). Go read.)

* I doubt that “inspired” is really the right word.

Kitchen counter revisited

Back in 2008 we knocked out the wall between the kitchen and the living area. The idea has always been to put a counter surface on there, it’s just that I wasn’t quite sure how to do it so… I didn’t.

Until a few weeks ago, when Tanya mentioned that with Jessica’s 18th birthday (cocktail) party coming up, it would be nice to have a counter…

So I got my arse in gear.

Started with a couple of templates, ordered MDF mostly-cut-to-size and with the appropriate edges rounded. Not that they got it right, but it was close enough.

Then I carefully marked the boards and routed them to size against a straight edge and… it didn’t work out right. No idea why. Out by about two mm on the outside edge. FSCK.

So I routed it back further and glued in a false piece and repeated the operation, but starting about 5mm oversize and coming in via router and then belt sander, half a mm at a time.

That’s probably as good as it gets.

Covered the two pieces in wrapping paper for the party (I didn’t want stains on the wood before I seal it, and staining and sealing will be a slow process since I need to try to match the postform kitchen counter colour).

And that’s what it looks like at the moment.

I’ll tie the two pieces together with dowels or biscuits, maybe a screw underneath to hold things together. The polyurethane wood glue dries to almost the right colour so that should be OK… I hope.