29 September 2011


It's a strange feeling, walking around a clothing optional campus in service dress. Thankfully, everyone we saw was clothed, but there were hippies everywhere.

This morning, my Scholars Capstone class took a field trip to the Colorado World Affairs Council Symposium on Arab Spring Events. 500 high school students and various faculty came from all around the Pikes Peak region. We heard from Ambassador Fairbanks, who used to be the US ambassador to the Middle East, and provided his perspective on the Arab Spring. Since most of what he said we'd already read or heard, and it was pretty hot in the room, it was a struggle to stay awake. During the break, I discussed the strange system for appointing ambassadors: they usually don't know anything about their region of the world; they're appointed as a political favor. In the past, that wasn't a huge issue, since the State Department's job was simply to report, not shape, events. Today, however, in order to shape events, the State Department needs more knowledge and expertise.

I grabbed some coffee and stepped outside. It was a beautiful day; the grass was green and the trees were falling. And between the trees, I could see Shove Chapel, where I'll be getting married in less than eight months to the love of my life. We've got a long way to go until we get there - in both time and personal growth - but I'm excited about the journey to the wedding and throughout our life together.

Back inside, we listened to a debate about whether or not the US should increase military aid to rebels in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. USAFA cadets argued for more military aid; CC students argued that violence spurs violence. Sergent Garcia ran through my head: la sangre llama la sangre, el orgullo la muerte. The USAFA team made some good points, but the CC students came back with very eloquent counterpoints.

After another break, we broke for round-table discussions. I led a discussion between about 20 high school students from various schools in various grades. About six of them dominated the discussion and demonstrated a lot of curiosity and intellect. Some appeared interested but did not speak; others sat sullenly in the corners.

One boy said something that stuck with me: "America wants everyone on the same playing field: our playing field." He was arguing that America wants everyone to have freedom - in a democracy like ours, with an economy like ours, following our rules.

After a lunch in CC's cafeteria - which serves vegan food, a far cry from Mitch's - we returned to the Academy. I changed uniforms and served a Statement of Understanding (SOU), which delineates a cadet's rights leading up to and during a Cadet Sanctions Recommendation Panel (CSRP) or Wing Honor Board (WHB). In this case, the cadet admitted to breaking the USAFA Honor Code. On Monday, I'll write a recommendation to the Commandant: should he be disenrolled, or should he face six months of probation?

Then I did some quick calculations to determine appropriate resistive loads for a PEM fuel cell, and discussed the project with my advisor. Back to my room, I changed, and headed down to the gym for some suicides up and down the rock wall. At the bottom, grab a 'biner, take it to the first bolt. Climb down, grab a 'biner, take it to the next bolt. And so on. Once at the top, climb down to the lowest bolt, grab the 'biner, bring it to the top. And so on.

I grabbed dinner with some friends, called my fiance and talked to her for a while. I coordinated with my NCO to do some work for the Honor Review Committee, which makes changes to the Honor Code Reference Handbook. Then I wrote this.

I'm so well-rounded, I'm pointless.

23 September 2011

DIY Steel Rimfire Target

Here at the Academy, we've got what's probably the greatest metal shop at any undergraduate institution - and it's better than some graduate and commercial shops too. Mills, lathes, drill presses, sanders, grinders, sheet metal tools, MIG and TIG welders, oxy-acetylene torch, water jet, heat treatment ovens... the list goes on.

I decided to take advantage of some of the tools and make myself some steel targets. I completed the first one today, and I'll test it this weekend.

My target had to do three things:
  • Deflect bullets downwards
  • Swing to absorb energy
  • Not cost a lot (ideally, free)

I met all three requirements using scrap metal, a band saw, belt grinder, drill press, oxy-acetylene torch, and MIG welder.

After cutting 8" octagons with tabs out of 1/4" steel plate, I ground the edges to make sure they wouldn't cut me or catch any bullets. Then I placed the tabs in a vice and used the torch to heat the metal to red-hot. Once it was soft, a hammer bent the targets over to the 90 degree angle.

I cut a 2" wide strip from the same scrap steel, and began drilling 5/8" holes in it on the drill press. Once the holes were drilled and the 2" squares cut, I ground the edges and corners and headed down to weld. With the tabs mounted, I found some 1/2" steel round stock, cut it, ground spikes into the ends, and welded it into the upside-down U shape.

The plate angles downwards when it's hanging, and swings easily. The whole project cost me about five hours.