Day: July 31, 2013

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

08:11 – I was surprised to read in the paper this morning that North Carolina has legalized the use of firearms suppressors (“silencers”) for hunting and other purposes. I was even more surprised to read that North Carolina is the 40th state to have done so. Of course, suppressors remain tightly controlled under federal law. They’re legal to buy and possess, but only after paying a $200 transfer tax, and even then transporting them is tightly controlled. Ironically, suppressors are unregulated in many countries. The last time I checked, one could walk into a hardware store in Britain and buy (for example) a Parker-Hale Sound Moderator, no questions asked.

Perhaps this means more Americans will find out what a suppressor actually looks like and sounds like. Contrary to how they’re represented in movies and TV, a suppressor–even for minor calibers like .22 rimfire–isn’t small. For a serious caliber, it’s typically the volume of a soda can, if not larger. And they don’t hiss, whistle, or thump. A good one reduces the report of a major caliber pistol from a resounding boom to a loud pop, like what you hear when you prick a balloon.

I’m shipping another box of stuff to “our” USMC unit in Afghanistan today. After I finished packing it, I was surprised how dense that box is. It’s USPS Regional Rate Box B–which has a volume of 615 cubic inches or 10 liters–and the sucker weighs over 13 pounds (6 kilos). I guess that’s what happens when one packs a box full of mostly canned foods. I’d used lots of packing tape originally, but I went back and taped the hell out of it again, just to make sure it doesn’t come apart.

12:07 – Now that I’m 60, I’m even more conscious of my physical and mental limitations. I mean, I’ve known for many years that I can no longer play serve-and-volley tennis anywhere near the level that I did when I was 20. As Barbara has pointed out, my arm would probably fall off when I served, and I’d probably drop dead of a heart attack before I reached the net. And that’s not even counting the fact that my vertigo would probably land me face-first on the court as I followed through, armless, on my serve.

Despite the fact that nearly all drivers rate themselves as above average, I recognize that I must be distinctly below average. I’m simply no longer in practice. For years, I’ve driven maybe five or ten miles in an average month. Months go by when I don’t drive at all. I try to avoid driving unless it’s really necessary. I mean, when I’m driving, I feel as if I’m driving about as well as I ever did, but I know that must be an illusion. At age 60, having driven probably less than a thousand miles in the last decade, I simply can’t be very good at it.

And I know I can no longer trust my memory as I once could. The other day, I was talking with Paul Jones and mentioned an organic compound by its trivial name, sulfanilic acid. Paul said something like, “that’s o-aminobenzenesulfonic acid, right?” What flashed through my mind was something like, “I thought it was para rather than ortho, but Paul’s the organic chemistry professor, not me.” So I kind of agreed with him and made a mental note to look it up later. It is in fact para, and there was a time when I’d have known that without having to look it up. I knew the structures of hundreds of organic compounds by their trivial names. No more.

But it’s not just forgetting facts. It’s forgetting things I need to do. For example, I was just down in the lab refluxing some Kastle-Meyer reagent. Instead of standing there watching it reflux for half an hour, I came back upstairs. There was a time when there was zero chance that I’d forget I had that reflux running. No more. This time, I set the timer in the kitchen to ding. Which it just did.

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