1st try at the LCP challenge

My friend Adam has issued a challenge to me. With my Ruger LCP, can I have all but 5 of 50 shots score a 10, firing at 7 yards? Here was my first try on a very cold January day.
My friend Adam has issued a challenge to me. With my Ruger LCP, can I have all but 5 of 50 shots score a 10, firing at 7 yards? Here was my first try on a very cold January day. Not quite: 7 or 8 shots outside the 10-ring (if it touches the ring, it counts!).

My new .22 target pistol, Marvel and Springfield Range Officer

Over the past couple months I’ve worked out the kinks on a new .22 target pistol, and I figured I’d share the details.

The new gun: Marvel Unit 1 conversion on a Springfield Armory Range Officer frame

.22 target pistol: Marvel Precision Unit 1, Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 frame, and an UltraDot red dot scope.
My new .22 target pistol: Marvel Precision Unit 1, Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 frame, and an UltraDot red dot scope.

After much consideration, I decided to go with a Marvel Precision Unit 1. That is a conversion unit that you use to turn a 1911 into a .22 pistol by replacing the slide and using different magazines.

The Marvel has a good reputation, it is known to function reliably, and is getting to be famous for its accuracy. Mine came with a 5-shot test target fired at 50 yards. The test group measured 0.81 inches. That really is excellent, considering that to my eye the X-ring on the 50 yard slow fire target looks to be 1 & 11/16 inches. Bottom line: it’ll hold a group tighter than I need it to hold.

I ordered the Marvel unit with an extra magazine, the iron sights, and a scope mount rib. Altogether, including shipping, I paid about $600.

Speaking of shipping, it took a long time for them to get me the unit. I placed the order online on April 5, 2012 and it shipped to me on June 12, 2012. I was definitely not thrilled with waiting that long, but I understand they’re busy.

So, between then and now, here is what I ended up doing.

I shot the gun first with the iron sights. They are good target sights, and I shot fine. However, I’ve been curious about shooting a red dot, so I picked up an UltraDot and put that on top. My 25 yard Timed and Rapid Fire scores didn’t change, but my 50 yard Slow Fire scores seem to have improved. I’ll stick with the dot a little longer and see how it goes (although I’ll continue to shoot iron sights on my .45).

For the lower I’m using a Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 .45 ACP that I purchased very late in June. Since then I’ve put in a short match trigger from Cylinder and Slide (required some hand-fitting), a reduced-power hammer spring (24 pound ILS spring from Wolff), and tuned the sear spring. The hammer and sear already looked really good.

The stock trigger on the Range Officer was not great. It started at around 5.5 lbs, and had a little bit of creep in it. The break was crisp, which I like. After fitting a new trigger that has a better length for my hand and carefully filing the trigger and a little bit of the trigger channel, the trigger movement is now quite smooth, and down to a nice 2 lbs. I also set the over-travel stop so the trigger won’t move any more than it must.

At Camp Perry during the second week of July I asked at the Marvel table for any tips on reliability and the response was that it should all work fine, but a lighter hammer spring may help if there are issues with loading new cartridges. I did in fact have a few of those issues, and so I put in a lower-powered ILS hammer spring. I fired 80 rounds this afternoon after replacing the spring, and had not a single problem.

So, what’s left? Well, I have a pair of Nill grips on my Clark Heavy Slide 1911, and I like the feel. I may get a pair for this gun too.

Also, I need to pick up another 1911 sear spring so I can tune it to 3.5 lbs for when I put the Range Officer slide back on the gun for shooting .45 ACP. Two pounds is too light for a gun with that kind of recoil, in my opinion.

All-in-all, I’m quite pleased with this set up, and I’m looking forward to competing with it.

Props to my old gun, a Ruger Mk II .22 pistol

I’ve been competing in Bullseye Pistol matches since 1990, and have used the same Ruger Mk II pistol for that entire time. Over half a dozen national pistol matches and many local, state, and regional competitions, not to mention countless hours of practice, I estimate that I’ve put a quarter of a million rounds through the gun.

The Ruger still functions, but after 22 years of heavy use, it’s pretty worn out. I’ve had to replace numerous parts over the years, including two firing pins, a firing pin stop pin, and the recoil spring. The gun is loose, and it feels loose. Could it be tightened? Maybe. Regardless, it’s time for a new gun, and I’ll keep this Ruger as a back up.

The gun has been re-blued, and it is high time for another re-blueing. It is down to bare metal where my fingers and the heel of my hand grip the gun.

Props to the old Ruger though, it will still shoot clean targets (clean means 100 out of 100 points). I’m impressed that it still maintains that precision.


Excluding a site in a Google search

The minus sign in "-site" is the trick to excluding a website from Google search results.
The minus sign in "-site" is the trick to excluding a website from Google search results.

This morning I found myself thinking about that perennial question of the reliability of Wikipedia. This time it is because my older daughter (she’s in junior high) is forbidden to use Wikipedia articles in papers for school, but she wasn’t given any other recommended suggestions from her teacher. So my observation is that she is now more likely to use online sources that are actually less reliable than Wikipedia.

Teacher: Your bias against crowd-sourced and curated knowledge has driven your students to find non-curated “knowledge.” Grade: F.

Better idea? Teach students to evaluate the credibility of online sources, and allow them to use Wikipedia articles if they are deemed sufficiently trustworthy. Mark down the grade if untrustworthy articles are referenced. This would teach a real research skill, and be more educational than just pointing to the Google search box.

But that’s a rant, and not what I learned.

I first did a Google search for “reliability of wikipedia,” and found a whole bunch of results. But they were mostly from Wikipedia. I looked at a few interesting Wikipedia articles on the topic, but wanted to see what websites other than Wikipedia had to say about this.

And there was my challenge. How do I do that same search but exclude results from

Well, I already knew that you can type into the search field to just search a specific website, so I tried That didn’t return any results. So I tried another approach that did work, putting the minus sign to the left of “site,” and it worked like a charm.

reliability of wikipedia

There. I learned something new today.


Downsizing my mattress

Relative sizes of twin, full (double), queen, and king mattresses.
Relative sizes of twin, full (double), queen, and king mattresses.

My current mattress is a little too soft for my bad back’s liking. And it’s just too big. I’m decidedly single at this point, have never been too tied to possessions in general, and so for me my queen mattress is just a nervous tick on the side of crazy. It’s time to downsize.

So, I wanted a picture of the relative sizes of standard mattresses to help me think through this. Tada, OmniGraffle to the rescue. Picture attached. (I realize they look like sticky notes. Mildly funny to me.)

Mattress type Width (inches) Height (inches)
Twin  39  75
Full (Double)  54  75
Queen  60  80
King  76  80

Looks like a full-size mattress will be in my future.


Make an alternate form to register for nanny taxes and increase state tax revenue

Ah, the nanny tax. Some quick Google searches show a range of 80 to 95% of people who are obligated to pay the nanny tax, simply don’t. (NYTimes, That’s a pretty whopping statistic.

As I’ve been finding out, it would certainly be easier to just skip it. This past summer I hired a nanny for about six weeks. And, wanting to do the right thing, I decided I would deal with the paperwork and expense, and just pay her as a household employee and deal with the taxes. And that’s still the right thing to do.

But, wow, do I hate paperwork, and this stuff is over the top.

Thumbnail panels of form 518
Form 518 from the State of Michigan was a bit over the top. I just wanted to pay taxes for hiring a nanny for a few weeks.

For the State of Michigan, I found out I have to fill out form 518, Registration for Michigan Business Taxes. The title of the form alone caused some trepidation. As I proceeded to fill it out, I found myself frequently scratching my head, thinking things like, “Why are they asking me about acquiring a business in the past four years? I just wanted to pay taxes for hiring a nanny.” Or, “But I’m not a business. I’m not buying or selling anything. This is a money losing scenario for me. I just want to pay what I have to for hiring a nanny!”

So, there was form 518, plus two additional forms I had to fill out, just to jump through some hoops to register for Unemployment Insurance taxes.

It’s pretty obvious that those forms are meant for real businesses, not private individuals who want to pay a household employee. I was so close to hiring a lawyer or accountant, but that just seemed unreasonable to me, so out of proportion with the fact that I just wanted to pay a nanny.

Upon having gone through the paperwork, nearly all of it was completely irrelevant. The relevant pieces were mostly my name and address or oddly specific. For instance, I nearly didn’t find the SIC number that applies to my situation. On the second page of SIC codes, about two thirds of the way down the fourth column of codes I found 881: Private Households – Domestic Employees, Cleaning, Baby-sitting, Private Nursing. I’m glad I found it, because I was really close to just leaving that field on the form blank.

Perhaps to the government, paying a nanny is just like owning a business. But, to me that seems like a dandy of a one-size-fits-all blunder. If instead the only form that a private individual had to fill out in order to register for nanny taxes was a quarter-sheet size form with contact information, perhaps more people would actually fill it out.

Maybe it could be a special edition of the 518, called 518-PH, for Private Households. The rest of the pertinent 518 information could be presumed on that form, simply because people filling it out fit that profile. (For instance, it would imply SIC # 881.)

How many people looked at the paperwork, freaked out for a moment, and then just decided to skip it? The current form is quite simply a roadblock to tax revenue and to people who would like to do the right thing.


Much ado about phone numbers

Four approaches to styling phone numbers.
Here are four approaches to styling phone numbers. Which looks best to you?

Lately I’ve been thinking about formatting phone numbers. Of course, there are plenty of options in addition to the ones above, but these are some common ones, although the thin spaces option is perhaps not too common. I added it because I’ve been wondering about the value of the separator characters, and if we can just not use them in favor of a little white space.

Here is some of the thinking.

  1. The conventional formatting of (123) 456-7890 will obviously be a phone number to most Americans.
  2. I’m no fan of the dashes.
  3. I’m okay with the periods. However, are they needed?
  4. Which led me to try the version with thin spaces between each set of digits.

I like the thin spaces, but I don’t dislike the conventional version. So, for obviousness, I lean towards the convention. For aesthetic, I lean towards the thin spaces.

But part of the decision of which approach to go with will depend upon the context. For instance, is the phone number labeled with an obvious word like Telephone or Phone? If so, I might opt for the thin spaces version.

However, if the context is unclear, say in the absence of clear cues about what that number is, the conventional approach would be best. Otherwise, the number could be misinterpreted as some other number, or it might simply take the reader too much mental effort to recognize it as a phone number. No need for that sort of rudeness.

Clearly, this is all just my opinion. Do you have a preference for how phone numbers ought to be styled?


How can MI UPA, IxDA groups, and MichiCHI work together?

UX practitioners in the state of Michigan have an enviable problem. We have so many active professional groups that it’s easy to get confused by which one is doing what, exactly.

Which groups?

Each group organizes events for practitioners, students, and academics to gather together in order to network and learn from each other. It’s great!

But it is also a bit much to keep track of, and I’m not always clear on which group is sponsoring which event. After all, a great many people in the UX field do usability research and evaluation, interaction design, and are interested in research and theory. Thus, we tend to see a lot of overlap in attendees for events from any of these organizations.

So, during a conversation at work today, Caitlin, Alaina, and I hatched a rough concept. (Disclaimer: this post represents what I personally took away from that conversation. I invite Alaina and Caitlin to chime in on the comments below to correct my thinking and/or to add to this post.)

Here’s the gist: Loosely coordinate the efforts of these organizations by factors of geography, frequency, and approach to UX.

Factor: Geography

MI UPA is a state-wide association, so we hope that MI UPA events will be big enough to draw people from a wider area of Michigan. Of course, it is difficult to draw people from as far north as the Upper Peninsula (there are UXers up there, right?), but for a great deal of people in the state, an occassional drive to Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit, or Grand Rapids is acceptable if the event will be good enough.

However, IxDA is based on local groups. IxDA-Lansing, for instance, tends to draw people from the Lansing area and nearby areas like Owosso and Flint. IxDA-Grand Rapids will likewise draw people from that area.

MichiCHI is similar in geographic reach to MI UPA.

Factor: Frequency

Because of the geographic constraints, having frequent meetings is easier for IxDA local groups because attendees simply don’t have to drive that far. So, IxDA groups could meet monthly with greater ease, and they would be more relaxed.

However, because people would need to drive further to attend events by the statewide organizations, they could do better to meet perhaps quarterly or even less, leaving the more frequent get-togethers to the IxDA local groups. The expectation is that these less frequent events would be a bit more polished—more of an event than a meet up.

Factor: Approach to UX

What I mean by this phrase is whether the UX focus is more academic (MichiCHI), more focused on usability work (MI UPA), or more focused on interaction design (IxDA). Of course, because we’re all in the same general field, this breakdown should be taken with a pretty heavy grain of salt. But while we tend to operate as generalists in part, I personally appreciate opportunities in each area, so I think there is value in this distinction.

Coordinating events by these various groups

Sketch of idea for coordinating MI UPA, MichiCHI, and IxDA local groups in Michigan.
Sketch of idea for coordinating MI UPA, MichiCHI, and IxDA local groups in Michigan.

So, given these thoughts, here’s a proposal.

1. We embrace the IxDA local groups

Perhaps we could even create more. How about an IxDA-Detroit? IxDA-Marquette? IxDA-Houghton? (Trying to represent the U.P.) These IxDA groups would sate our appetite to meet frequently for networking, idea sharing, and teaching each other how we can do our work better. In the meantime, MI UPA and MichiCHI purposely slow down the pace and encourage participation in the more frequent IxDA events.

2. we help the state associations with less frequent, more formal events

These frequent IxDA groups can help generate the presentations that could then be shared state-wide at larger events sponsored by MI UPA or MichiCHI. The coordinators of each IxDA group could stay in touch with the events committees of MI UPA and MichiCHi and recommend excellent presentations. And these IxDA groups would help promote and recruit volunteers for the larger events put on by MI UPA and MichiCHI. These organizations are already putting on some awesome events like the annual Internet User Experience conference. Let’s pitch in and help them be even more awesome.

And how to coordinate between MI UPA and MichiCHI?

Beats me. Perhaps some of you have ideas?


We have a really great group of practitioners in Michigan, and we’re lucky to have these organizations actively promoting our field. With a little coordination for each group in light of the others, I think we can tune our professional organizations to work even better together.

Do you do UX work in Michigan? What are your thoughts?


Mmm. Steak Sandwich and Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

Steak, spinach, onion, tomato, and avacado sandwich, with bowl of tomato soup.
This steak, spinach, onion, tomato, and avacado spread sandwich with fresh tomato soup made a tasty dinner.

I got the idea for the sandwich from an article on and I decided to track down a tomato soup recipe to make something of my abundant backyard tomato plant. No kidding, it was the best tomato soup I’ve ever had in my life.

Davin Lila and Eva

Aug 2011 Vacation Photos

This past weekend Lila, Eva and I returned home from a week-long vacation to the Keewenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I grew up there, and we caught up with relatives while there. Here are some photos from our trip.

Taqhuamenon Falls

We took a leisurely drive up and spent a morning site-seeing in Taqhuamenon Falls State Park. If you visit the park, the brew pub at the upper falls serves some tasty grub!

An evening at Abigail’s parents’ beach house near Keewenaw Bay

We picked up pizzas and root beer one evening and headed to Abigail’s family’s beach house on Lake Superior. Abigail is my brother Peter’s girlfriend. We had a stone skipping contest, my brothers disappeared in kayaks for a while, and we roasted marshmallows as the sun set.

White City lighthouse and beach at Jacobsville

After a nearly fruitless evening looking for thimbleberries, we headed to the beach at Jacobsville. One of my young cousins here took a weather-cleaned bone as a souvenir from the remains of a bald eagle’s meal out on the walk to the lighthouse.

Davin Lila and Eva

More vacation photos