Friday, May 30, 2008
Hundreds of retired steelworkers from the former Republic Technologies Inter-
national are being notified their pensions will be cut, in some cases by as much as 75 percent, to less than $300 a month, due to new calculations by the federal agency that guarantees employer-paid pensions.
Some of the 3,300 retirees affected by the revisions are being told they must pay back tens of thousands of dollars in pension overpayments since Republic Technologies declared bankruptcy in June 2002.
"I had a retiree in my office today; he put in 29 years" at the former LTV plant in South Chicago, Millsap said. "His pension went from $1,500 to $370, and they're going to deduct $37 per month because he has to pay back $25,000. He's diabetic and can't work."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-Ohio), in a letter this week to Senate colleagues, called on congress to change the rules.
He cited an Ohio constituent, Richard Wyers, who was notified he owes $53,415.60. Wyers anticipated a monthly benefit of about $2,400 when he was working at the mill, but that was slashed to $1088.27 when the PBGC assumed the plan.
"Now he is being told that he will get $325.19 minus a recoupment deduction of 10 percent, yielding $292.67 before taxes," Brown wrote.
So a guy works all his life in a steel mill and thinks if he can tough it out, retirement will be sweet. In a union environment, retirement benefits are negotiated. In order to get the $2,400 per month benefit, something else was traded away - salary, insurance, vacation - something. Then through no fault of their own, retirees find themselves with a mere pittance and they have to give back some of the money they already received because of a 2004 court decision. This is just wrong with a capitol W. Of all the money this country pisses away world wide, you would think we could at least take care of the men and women who worked hard and bargained in good faith to have a decent retirement here at home. Doin' a heckuva job there, Brownie.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I received my new Practical Welding Today magazine the other day and once again the need for welders was brought to the attention of the readership. In the supplement, Associate Editor Amanda Carlson introduces the subject of our crumbling infrastructure and the role welding will play in the repair and replacement. She cites the Bureau of Transportation Statistics report that of the 597,876 bridges in the U.S., 12 % are considered structurally deficient and 13% are functionally obsolete. That's a comforting thought, yes? She also cites the American Welding Society statement that by the year 2010 the demand for welders will exceed supply by more than 200,000. Also in the back of the magazine is a want ad looking for TIG welders to join stainless tubing. Starting wages $27.00/hour plus benefits. The same company is also looking for an automation/robotics technician. Salary negotiable.
So in a year and a half if we haven't all fallen off a bridge, we'll be crying for skilled people in the welding field to the tune of 200,00 people. The skills to weld stainless tubing, heavy structural or program a welding robot are not the same. That's the beauty of the welding field, however. There's something for everyone. We just need to convince the young people that now is a really good time to pursue a rewarding career in welding.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Trying out the new digital camera with a couple of shots of my orchid and rose bush. I'm not really a big fan of digital photography but this little gem is pretty neat. It's got a setting just for taking pictures of flowers. Who'd a thunked it? Anyway, things are in bloom and we all should appreciate the beauty around us. In fact, Benedetto Croce went so far as to say even though we might not be artists, we all should have an AB behind our name - Admirer of Beauty. So as I start the last week of the school year and the boys and I are cleaning up the shop and toolroom, I need to stop and smell the roses. Roses are certainly better than some of the funk that comes from welding jackets that haven't been washed all year along with some stinky workboots.
Shop Teacher Bob, AB
Friday, May 23, 2008
Both of our dads are buried pretty close to one another as are our grandparents in common. On the short walk to hit all the graves we have to walk past the headstone of T/Sgt. George Grissom. Since my wife always buys plenty of flowers and the Sgt.'s grave was never decorated, we'd plant a couple on his grave as well. Last year we decided to see if we could find out anything about the late Mr. Grissom and went to the library after our flower detail was taken care of. After doing a little research, we found out he was gunner on a Liberator that was shot down over Germany while on his 24th mission. The paper had a couple of articles about his short life - school, parents, photo - but I'm sure his story has been told thousands of times in newspapers the world over. A young man in his prime going off to war and giving his life for his country. The story keeps repeating itself over and over again with no end in sight. So at least once a year T/Sgt Grissom is remembered by a couple of guys who appreciate the fact he gave his life for our freedom. It's not much but it's about all we can do. Maybe you could do the same for someone.
This weekend please remember all who have sacrificed to give us our freedom and those that are serving in the armed forces now. Thanks also to the American Legion for honoring all the veterans this weekend with the American flags.
Shop Teacher Bob Does the Marathon
Training Advice From a Man Who’s Done it Once
What prompts a 55 year old man to attempt a marathon? Good question. To find the answer, maybe a little background information might be in order.
I’ve been running off and on for about thirty years. My first competitive or should I say organized run was a 10-1/2 miler. It was 1976 and my hometown was celebrating America’s Bicentennial with fireworks, hotdogs and a road run. I was doing a little sparring at the time and my boxing coach thought it would be a good idea for us to run it. The conversation went something like:
“We should run that race they’re planning.”
“Because I said so”.
And that’s how I became a runner.
I ran the same race two years later along with a bunch of others, mostly 5 to 7 miles in length. I was never fast – most were run at about an 8:00 flat pace. After a couple of years I decided to try a marathon. I mean let’s face it. You can’t really call yourself a runner if you never ran a marathon, right?
A buddy of mine gave me a copy of a training program he had used, I read up on the subject a little, found a race, and started training. Things were going nicely. My long runs were up around 14 or 15 miles and then I got tangled up in some brush along the side of the road during a late night run. I ended up with a stress fracture in my foot and had to put the marathon plan on hold for a while.
Fast-forward about 15 years. I started coaching a couple of amateur boxers myself. I had put on two or three pounds every winter but had stayed pretty active. I worked the heavy and speed bags, skipped a little rope and as long as we had ice, played a little hockey in the winter. I started running again, training with my boxers and entering a couple of road runs per year just to keep me honest.
For 2005, a buddy I run with came up with the idea we should run one race every month for the whole year. I gave it about a minute’s thought and agreed, as long as we ran a ½ marathon along the way. I ended up running 11 events last year including two ½ marathons and race-walked two more events. My buddy put in 15 for the year. My best 5K time was a 23:45. Not fast, but I had lost 25 pounds and for a guy carrying a newly minted AARP card, I was feeling pretty good.
After running the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon, I was now an international runner, had a good mileage base and was facing the approach of winter here in the Midwest. What’s a boy to do? You work hard all year so you can hibernate in front of the TV and eat chips? Heck no. You run a marathon. I picked Little Rock.
How do you go about picking the marathon that’s right for you? Make it an event. In my case, I’m really impressed with what Governor Huckabee has done to get himself and the State of Arkansas in shape, the Clinton Presidential Library is there, it’s 600 miles away and it has the world’s largest finisher’s medal. It was a no-brainer.
I took a couple of weeks off and then started the Hal Higdon Marathon program for beginners. I had used his program to train for the half and it worked well, so why not? Besides, I had actually competed against him in one of the 10-1/2 milers way back when. Well, maybe not really competed. He won and I crossed the same finish line as he did.
Starting an 18-week program for a March marathon in the Midwest can be challenging. We get cold, we get snow, we get rain, we pretty much get it all from 20 below to 60 above. Having lived here all my life, I knew what I was getting into. I should also tell you that I think treadmills are for sissies. If you are training for an event to be run on a rubberized track, in a climate-controlled environment with no cars, dogs, roadkill, or potholes, then by all means run on a treadmill. Ten years ago the temps in early February were about 20 below. If that had been this winter my fanny would have been in my buddies basement running in place on the endless rubberband with the rest of the sissies. I got lucky – something like 43 days of above average temperature in a row this winter. Besides, you won’t inspire too many people to take up running if they can’t see you run. The people in the gym are already convinced. If all of us took to the streets, the streets would become more runner friendly as well.
Along with the treadmills are for sissies axiom, I’ll throw in the no batteries required corollary. Running requires good shoes and non-chafing clothes. That’s all. If it’s your first marathon you’re training for, leave the GPS, heart rate monitor, watch, and MP3 player at home. If you’re struggling to make your weekly long run, either you’re running too fast or your mileage base isn’t what it should be. You don’t need a gadget to tell you that. Find a comfortable pace and run it. You’re training for distance not speed. Regardless of your finishing time it will be your PR. Next time go for speed. In the interest of safety and motivation I do strongly suggest a running buddy. Mine couldn’t commit to the training time a marathon requires, so most of my runs were solos. I’m pretty much a lone wolf type of personality but after running with the same guy for the last couple of years, I missed the witty repartee.
Here’s a couple more pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years:
A big race should be a big event. Pick a race that requires some travel. Cash in a couple of sick days and head out. You’ve been running for over a year and trained specifically for 18 weeks for the marathon. Enjoy the circus.
Tell all of your friends your plan. If everyone knows what you’re training for they’ll offer plenty of support and your pride won’t let you quit.
Get advice. Seek out those who have done a marathon. Custom tailor any training tips they may offer to fit you and your particular fitness level and expectations. More important than the training tips are the stories they’ll tell you about running a marathon. Talking shop is always a good motivator.
Get happy. You’re going to be tired and you’re going to have to make sacrifices. You’re friends and loved ones will be happy to support you as long as you’re happy and excited about the prospect of running a marathon. Your training should not be a marathon for them.
Stay flexible. Flexible means stretching, deep muscle massage or whatever it takes to keep the muscles loose. Flexible also applies to the mental game. I shifted a 12 mile run from Saturday to Monday because it was zero outside. Two days later it was a balmy 14 degrees and it was no problem. Things are going to come up. If your mileage base is good, you can afford to skip a couple of days and it won’t hurt you any.
So, how did it go? The three weeks between the last big training run and the marathon seemed like an eternity. I was starting to seriously question old Hal’s wisdom. All that resting was sure to lead to a loss in fitness. I was also starting to become extremely paranoid about something coming along to muck up the works. My wife came down with a vile sort of 24-hour stomach flu two days before we were to leave. Every kid I came in contact with at school seemed to be sneezing or coughing, as well. I was sure I would never make it to Little Rock without some type of problem.
Apparently good clean living does pay off. The drive down was lovely. Little Rock was warm and sunny on Saturday for our day of sightseeing. Race day was about 50 degrees and clear when the gun went off. Later in the day it warmed up a little but was overcast. Perfect conditions for running long distances. The course was extremely hilly, at least by midwestern standards, but not enough to stop 5000 people from competing in one of the various events offered that day.
My target time was 4:45 and my chip time was 4:44:22. About as close as a guy can get. The only real problem was the big hill near the finish. That baby’s just plain wrong. I walked up that one and an overpass at mile 18 and took some additional breaks along the way late in the race but felt pretty good most of the way. The race was well run, the course was policed well and the people of Little Rock were very supportive. It was the first time I had ever been in a race where my name was on my bib number. It was nice hearing people call my name and cheering me on. My wife was waiting for me at the finish with dry clothes and a hug. I got my world’s largest finisher’s medal – that sucker is big – and was treated like a hero when I got back to work a couple of days later. It was perfect.
Now I can call myself a runner.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The President's Challenge is dedicated to getting all of us off our lazy backsides and doing a little something every day. You can track your activities and earn medals either solo or as part of a group. It keeps track of of everything you've done whether it's running, gardening or walking and assigns a point value that's roughly equivalent to calories burned. Makes for a nice training log. Currently there's a state challenge going on. Indiana is in 29th place, Alaska is number one and California is way down the list. Seems at first glance to show a definite correlation between climate and activity level. I urge all of you to check out the link and get outside. Trust me, it's good for the health and the soul.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I picked up a MountainFlyer magazine the other day. I'd never heard of it before but it was a special edition of bicycle builders. Not big companies but hand built bikes and boy howdy, some of these guys are nothing but impressive. The safety bicycle has been around for a long time now but these guys keep coming up with new ideas and designs. When I was young I didn't even know there were hand built bikes. Maybe we need a reality show on TV about bicycle builders like they do the chopper shows. Well maybe not exactly like that. Cut all the drama crap and focus on what really talented people can accomplish. Maybe show the 5th annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show. I went to the website and the show will be in Indy next year. That would be worth the trip.
The bike in the picture is a recumbent I made for my wife's Christmas present a couple of years ago. I built it from plans I picked up from E-Bay. The frame is a stretched department store10 speed that I picked up somewhere. The front fork, wheel and handlebars are from a 20" that came out of the scrap. The seat is from the cafeteria here. Usually I fix them and give them back. Other than the plans, front tire and paint, no dollar bills were killed or injured during the construction. For as cheap as it was to build, it's not really a bad bike. It's the only recumbent I've ever ridden, so I don't know how it would compare to a store bought one. It's a little shaky until you get rolling and even then the steering doesn't have enough trail or something. It's not scary but it does take a little getting used to. I took it out for a spin after washing it off and you could get used to riding it. It's set up as a 5 speed and that's all a guy would need around here.
So it's not the kind of bike you'll see at the NAHB show but it's the kind of thing that people used to do all the time. Make something out of nothing. A technical exercise if nothing else.
Friday, May 16, 2008
After buying gas for the mower the other day at $4.05 per gallon, the incentive to park all of the internal combustion things is becoming stronger all the time. The Chicago Tribune ran an article last year about Prius owners getting 100 miles per gallon by modifying both the engine management systems and their driving technique. Previous to that, the Trib also ran a big article about where our fuel comes from and the ins and outs of production. At the time of the article, the United States was using 20.7 million barrels of oil per day. That's more than the combined output per day of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait. That's just unacceptable.
USA Today had an article last Friday about the effects of high fuel prices. A motorcycle salesman in California said he switched from driving a car to riding a motorcycle and his fuel bill went from$30 to $10 per week. If you're selling motorcycles in sunny California, why the hell wouldn't you ride a bike? This is some sort of sacrifice? Other's talked about consolidating trips and other things common sense would have dictated even if they were giving gas away. If this is the mentality of the people in the US, we're in deep trouble.
So park the cars and get outside. Ride the bike for trips shorter than 5 miles and do yourself and the environment a favor. No matter what you think about global warming, oil is a finite resource. You might want to save a little bit for the grandkids.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In Indiana, May 12-16 is ride your bike to work week. So far I'm two for two. I ride quite a bit, including the cold Indiana winters. Not a big fan of getting wet, however. So as a welder and a cyclist is seems only natural to build your own cycle.
Before I started teaching, I worked part-time at a bicycle shop. I did a little wrenching on the line of mini bikes and small motorcycles the shop sold in addition to the Motobecane bicycles. A customer brought a 1938 Elgin into the shop and traded it in on a bicycle for his grandson. I bought it for the $7.50 credit the shop owner gave the customer. I used to ride it back and forth to work and around town for errands. When my youngest brother was in the Army in Germany, he bought a Peugeot mountain bike. He gave it to me when he got out of the service and I still ride that one when the weather is bad or I'm going to be out after dark. Like a Timex, it takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. When I started working here about 15 years ago I found that one of the guys in my dept was a pretty serious cyclist so I got involved with cycling again. So in a very round-about fashion, thats how we get to the bike in the pictures.
I built this two years ago from a big box of parts I bought on E-Bay. It's all steel lugged construction - very traditional method of putting a bike together. I built a quick fixture for holding things in alignment, bought some silver solder and went to work. Things went together fairly well. A couple of the solder joints were a little sloppy but I got better by the time I was done. It's a seven speed - bought the crankset and derailleur on E-Bay as well. Made the rack from stainless hydraulic tubing. The seat and handlebars were scabbed off a cheap dept. store bike. I've since added fenders to make the commute a little more pleasant.
There's lots of info to be had on building bicycles. Anyone with any basic handtool handiness can build a bike. Hacksaw, drill and a couple of files and you can be a bike builder. Learning how to solder takes a little doing but many vocational schools and community colleges have that info. There are a couple of schools that teach framebuilding and bike mechanics. Most high school counselors won't be very likely to steer a student in that direction, however. To get a look at a couple of the best builders check out www.richardsachs.com and www.vanillabicycles.com.
I've been to Vanilla Bicycles and the craftsmanship is second to none. Five year waiting list for a frame. Might want to get your order in.
Rivendell bicycles also has a lot of info on steel frame bikes and the Rivendell Reader that's worth a look.
So ride your bike to work this week - at least on Friday - if nothing else. It's time to take back the streets.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Doesn't get any better than that.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Cure for the welder shortage
By Tina M. Buchanan, Contributing Writer
October 9, 2007
What can be done to combat the skilled welder shortage? Longtime welding educator and inspector Tina Buchanan has some ideas that require cooperation among educational facilities at all levels, industry, and parents. Among her recommendations are restructuring educational programs, more industry involvement, and parental support of children's career interests.
Photo courtesy of EAA Sportair workshops
Everyone in the welding field is talking about the welder shortage. Every meeting I attend, the talk surrounds the need for welders.
As a certified welding educator working in an institution of higher learning, I am inundated with calls for welders. As a certified welding inspector in industry, I am asked if I have any welders ready to go to work. I reply that all of my good welders are working, or I ask if the business is willing to work around my students' school schedules. The answer I receive is usually that the employer needs someone full-time and available to work any shift.
Now that we all are aware of the welder shortage, we need to institute an action plan. Many avenues to circumvent the shortage exist, but they require people working together to obtain the cure.
Shift in Educational Focus
A shift in thinking regarding how educational programs are administered must occur. Programs need to be geared toward the success of the student instead of the preconceived notion that every student is college-bound. There are two types of students, academic and skill-oriented, and they require different types of training.
Secondary Programs. Programs at a secondary level should be designed to allow students to pursue the skills in which they are interested, without being required to take an ever-increasing number of credits that prepare them for college.
Most skill-oriented students want to learn and be proficient in all aspects of a particular skill. Administration across the board needs to understand that the standard courses for these students should be geared toward the application the student will need in his or her chosen field. This enables the student to succeed in these types of courses.
Welding programs should be linked to the industry that supports them. On-the-job training, shadowing, and mentoring opportunities should be incorporated into these programs so that the students can gain real-world knowledge and experience in the field.
College Programs. At the college level, an open-entry, open-exit format that allows students to enter at any time, complete the objectives for the course, and go on to the next course or exit the program to go to work should be implemented. A degree in a skill program should be based on skill-related courses taught by people qualified in the skill. These qualified, skilled instructors know what is required in industry and are best-suited to prepare the student for the work force.
To eliminate the stigma attached to the skilled worker, everyone needs to realize that these are knowledgeable and skilled professionals. Every weld is important, and without welders to repair and fabricate, we wouldn't have tall buildings, bridges, ships, and other parts of our infrastructure.
Industry needs to be more involved with the educational process. One way to do so is by becoming collectively active in the educational political arena in which legislation concerning the training of potential employees is enacted.
Industry needs to work with the secondary and postsecondary institutions to provide experiential learning opportunities. These opportunities can come in many forms. Industry experts can become active presenters at professional meetings, such as American Welding Society (AWS) section meetings, and inform students of the different jobs available in the welding field.
Industry can provide mentoring, shadowing, and on-the-job training programs to help students integrate into their careers.
Employers can serve on advisory committees, not only at the educational point nearest them, but collaboratively with others to reach the next level in the educational policy hierarchy.
Industry must recognize that to recruit qualified employees, it must offer wages equal to the skill level and increase those wages as the skill level rises.
Exposing Younger People to Skilled Trades
Addressing the welder shortage requires effort beyond appropriate educational programs and industry involvement. Students must be made aware of the antiquated infrastructure and what it is going to take to fix it.
Elementary and middle schools should host more career days to get kids interested in their futures. The focus should not be mainly on the standard careers like doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen, and business people. While these jobs are very important, young students should be introduced to the skilled trades and told why they are important.
We need to challenge students to explore the many career options. We have the best information highway available (Internet), and we are promoting it as entertainment rather than a research tool.
As parents, we need to be more encouraging about our children's career interests. Parents and society need to teach children responsibility beginning when they are very young, because this is the most important part of work ethics. A majority of the students of this generation have lost this important trait. This lack of responsibility is the major complaint from our advisory committees for industry and education. The poor work ethic is a costly part of industry and our society as a whole.
Meeting of the Minds
Keep in mind that I am not telling you that I have all the answers. I am relaying my perspective on what I have encountered over the last 16 years in both industry and at different educational levels. Everyone needs to realize that in order to find a cure for the welder shortage, there needs to be a meeting of the minds. Many issues exist within those addressed in this article. As a collective group, we need to identify each issue and design strategies to overcome them. Doing so may cure more than the welding industry; it may cure society's ills.
This article taken from The Fabricator Magazine. More info can be found at www.thefabricator.com
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Lots of info here on teardrops. If I had plenty of time and money, I'd build one like the Roswell. That would be nothing but sweet.
Now to the philosophy of it all.
The industrial revolution hit a little over 125 years ago and the United States leapt to the forefront of manufacturing with interchangeable parts and spiffy machine tools. People moved away from an agricultural way of life and became producers of things. Many of those things required highly skilled craftsmen and that's the way it was until fairly recently. Now we have moved to a service economy, which means not only is it hard to find skilled people it's also impossible to get good service as well. As the baby boomers retire out, it's creating a shortage of machinists, welders, etc. The situation has been compounded by the closing of vocational programs and the general mantra of go to college, don't work with your hands. Now is the time to reverse the situation.
There have been articles recently in the Chicago Trib, the Fabricator Magazine and others lamenting the shortage of skilled people. Companies are trying to hold on to their older employees with some creative solutions because they are the holders of knowledge. It's time to give skilled craftspeople their due. Pay a good wage, have good working conditions and give them the respect they once had.
What does a teardrop trailer have to do with all of this? Because it was made by someone who had the opportunity 40 years ago to learn a trade from a highly skilled craftsman. Now I try to pass those skills along to others on a daily basis. Show them by example what can be done if you just pay attention in high school and work at it a little bit. There are jobs available to high school graduates with decent welding skills that start at $20.00/hour plus benefits. Maybe not the most glamorous of jobs but honest pay for honest work. The problem now is how do we convince mom and the little darling that this can be a viable career option? The more popular option seems to be enroll in college, drink a lot of beer and come back home after one or two semesters and then look for some crappy job when mom's tired of tripping over you. It's definitely time to sound the alarm.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
As you can see from the pictures, the shell of the trailer is relatively simple - a couple of outer walls and a couple of bulkheads. The interior cabinetry is a little more difficult but nothing that couldn't be done by a good high school student with a little guidance. The trailer frame is made from angle with a rectangular tube tongue. I put the frame together in about a 1/2 day. Store bought fenders and axle and there you go. The only tricky metal work was the mounts for the tail lights. Teardrop lights on the teardrop trailer, that's just had to be. I made a development of the fender and light can to use as a pattern and then rolled up the sheet metal to shape, welded on a flange to bolt the light to and stuck it on the fender. Making developments like that is something every drafting class used to teach before everything went to computers. It's a handy skill and can be used for duct work, pipe connections and putting the skin on the grandson's midget racer that's currently under construction.
Philosophy comes in part three.
Monday, May 5, 2008
The photos show the teardrop trailer I made last year from plans taken from a 1947 Popular Mechanix magazine. There's oodles of info about teardrops on the internet. There is a site that has converted all of the old plans to CAD files and has all the profiles of the sides as X,Y coordinates. Unfortunately I don't have the link to send you there. I used those numbers to lay the sides out for mine and it worked really well. The sides are made out of MDO - the stuff outdoor signs are made from. It has a smooth finish over a marine core plywood. It takes paint real well and should be pretty durable. The top is made from Masonite - smooth side out. I made a few changes in the construction of things but it's about 95% just like the plans call for. I took it on a trip last summer of about 2000 miles and it's just the ticket for solo travel or two people who are on very good terms.
I'll get into a little more of the details and how it all relates to my educational philosophy at a later date. I wanted to try importing photos. Not too tough for technology throwback.