Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Dumbest Generation

I just finished reading The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future by Mark Bauerlein. It's a pretty interesting book that verifies what I've suspected for quite some time - the kids just keep getting dumber. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought maybe it was just the fact that I'm getting to be a crochety old man. Turns out that yes, I'm getting to be a crochety old man but the little darlings are, in fact, getting dumber.

The book deals primarily with college age young people and states the case that instead of using all of the new technology to learn about everything the world has to offer, they spend most of their time networking with friends about extremely trivial matters. They no longer read books, visit museums or stay up to date on world events. When on a computer, they read like the letter "F". They read the first sentence in it's entirety but as they move down the page they only read about half the sentence and finally near the bottom of the page, they merely skim the first couple of words. It's so bad in fact, they'll often ignore information presented in pdf format because the page is too plain. When they go to the library it's to get a movie rather than a book. To them, it's all about You Tube, Facebook, My Space and texting their pals.

It isn't funny anymore. The Dumbest Generation cares little for history books, civic principles, foreign affairs, comparative religions, and serious media and art, and it knows less. Careening through their formative years, they don't catch the knowledge bug, and tradition might as well be a foreign word.. Other things monopolize their attention - the allure of screens, peer absorption, career goals. They are latter-day Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the movements of culture and events of history, preferring the company of peers to great books and powerful ideas and momentous happenings. From their ranks will emerge few minds knowledgeable and interested enough to study, explain, and dispute the place and meaning of our nation. Adolescence is always going to be more or less anti-intellectual, of course, and learning has ever struggled against immaturity, but the battle has never proven so uphill. Youth culture and youth society, fabulously autonomized by digital technology, swamp the intellectual pockets holding on against waves of popular culture and teen mores, and the Boomer mentors have lowered the bulwarks to surmountable heights. Among the Millennials, intellectual life can't compete with social life, and if social life has no intellectual content, traditions wither and die. Books can't hold their own with screen images, and without help, high art always loses to low amusements.

The ramifications for the united States are grave. We need a steady stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise political leaders, dedicated journalists and demanding teachers, judges and muckrakers, scholars and critics and artists. .......
Teachers try to impart knowledge, but students today remember only that which suits their careers or advantages their social lives. For the preparation of powerful officials, wise intellectuals, and responsible citizens, formal schooling and workplace training are not enough. Social life and leisure time play essential roles in the maturing process, and if the knowledge principle disappears, if books, artworks, historical facts, and civic debates - in a word, an intellectual forensic - vacate the scene, then the knowledge young people acquire later on never penetrates to their hearts.

Adults everywhere need to align against youth ignorance and apathy, and not fear the "old fogey" tag and recoil from the smirks of the young.

In just a couple of months, thousands of high school graduates are going to be hitting the streets. The majority of them will have no marketable skills what so ever. Many of them will go off to college and many of these will be back home within a year or so because they lacked the educational foundation, the basic study skills or just drank too much beer. Many will want to go to college but won't have the money. Easy to understand in todays economy. Many will try to enter the job market but will find out that even fast food is a tough nut to crack right now.

The lucky ones will be the ones with skills. The people who can make and do things. Will there be jobs for all of them? No, but instead of sitting on the damn couch texting or Twittering their life away, people that make things stay busy. They will pursue their hobbies or will be out tinkering on something. These are the people who will enroll in a night school program to learn how to run a lathe. They'll be pounding nails, fishing, camping - just keeping busy learning new things and networking with people who can help them get somewhere in this world once the job market opens up as opposed to networking with some knucklehead who sleeps 'til noon because he not only doesn't have a job but he has absolutely no prospects, either.

I realize it's rather ironic that I bring this information to you via computer when the computer and associated technologies seem to be at the root of the problem. But I do have an education, visit museums and have marketable skills. I'm also waiting for the drywall compound to dry so I can put on a second coat. Join me in the fight against youth ignorance, won't you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gloves Update

Just got home from Indy. We had one fighter in the tourney tonight and he got a win. He started out a little slow and got whacked with a big right hand. That woke him up and he pretty much took control from then on. We're 7 and 3 so far. We've got four fights next week. All little guys, all championship fights. We've got two of our fighters facing off against each other so we're sure to have at least one champion. So far, so good.

Camp Granada

I'm feeling sort of like the kid in Alan Sherman's song Camp Granada. After forecasting rain all week, the weather has actually been tolerable and I've been able to get outside and get a few things done. All has not been roses, however. The missus has managed to land herself in the hospital and will be there for a few more days. Because of this, I'm seizing the opportunity to tackle a project inside the shack. As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to start replacing some ceiling tile. Should be able to get everything torn out and cleaned up before I head to Indy for the Gloves. Hopefully, the dust will not only have settled but also have been cleaned up and the project completed before she gets home.

If you want to see some cool pictures of big Harleys from the 60's, check out Nostalgia on Wheels. They must have been taken at some kind of rally. Mom and Pop sporting matching outfits on big Electra Glides - pretty cool.

If you want a real good rant on what's happening with the bailout and what prompted this, check out Your Crazy Uncle's post from yesterday. Just the thing for a guy like myself who's getting ready to do his taxes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Break

I'm on break this week but it looks like it's going to be pretty bleak. The weatherman is forecasting rain until Friday. I had planned on getting a bunch of work done around the shack plus getting out and putting some miles in on the bicycle but it looks like that's out. It's not like I don't have anything else to work on but it's pretty damn depressing to be looking at five days in a row of crappy weather when the option was there to get out of Dodge for a few days. Yesterday was a beautiful spring day, however. I did get the truck cleaned out and a couple of other things done outside.

The wife and I celebrated our anniversary a few days ago by being ill, so yesterday we drove to the big city for a lap around Rural King and then to a restaurant that has really good barbeque. The only problem was the restaurant took a week off for Spring Break, as well. We went with the back up plan and stopped at the Monon Connection and Whistle Stop Restaurant. The food's pretty good, prices fair and they've got one heckuva collection of railroad memorabilia. I'm not talking just a couple of timetables and some old calenders. They've got a caboose, boxcar, crane, handcarts, signs and outbuildings. They've got more lanterns and china than you'll ever hope to see anywhere. There's a fee to view the museum part but if you're any kind of a train buff at all, you'll want to invest a couple of bucks. You can see some of the collection from the restaurant and be entertained by the trains that run overhead while you're dining on a piece of homemade pie. The restaurant and museum are located on US 421 two miles north of Monon, Indiana. Just remember to check the local time thanks to "My Man Mitch".

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gloves Update

We took six fighters to the Golden Gloves yesterday. We had three wins and three losses. Not too bad all things considered. Everyone fought real well but the lack of experience and conditioning did a couple of the guys in. It's really hard to impress on someone the conditioning required to fight three hard rounds plus guys get wound up so tight from nerves they don't breathe like they should. I'd like to see everyone get a win, naturally, but I'm not going to discourage a fighter from entering a tournament because he needs more polish. The only way to get good is to get out there and fight. The referees do a good job of protecting the fighters, so as long as the guy has been putting in the effort in the gym, he might as well put on the gloves and give it a shot. The tourney only comes around once a year.

For a young club we're doing well. We've got a good core group of fighters at the gym and Jimmy and I learning a few things about running a gym and preparing guys to fight. We need to do a few more conditioning drills where we can more accurately judge the fighters condition. Something where we can establish a baseline and then monitor their progress. These young guys always think they're in way better shape than they really are because they've never really been in good shape before. You find out real quick, however, when you get between the ropes and get your ass handed to you.

We've got only one guy fighting next week but several the following week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How 'Bout a Little Head?

Or why I never get my projects done.

A student brings in a cylinder head for me to look at and instantly I know this isn't going to be a fun one. The corner of the head has been welded up where a manifold bolt is supposed to go but it's looking real ugly. So I tell him as long as he's not in a big hurry I can help him out. I grind all the old crap out, including the broken tap they welded over and build the corner back up. It's a slow process but the cast iron rods I've got work really well. I don't have an angle plate for the mill, so I clamp a piece of channel to the table and the head to the channel and mill the corner back flat. The next step is to fixture the head at a 45 degree angle so I can redrill the hole for the manifold bolt. Once again not having an angle plate, I weld the piece of channel at the proper angle to a flat plate and throw a gusset on it to make sure it's not going to move when I start machining the hole and then clamp the whole works on to the table of the mill. Next step is to bolt the intake manifold on to locate the hole, center the job under the spindle, spot face a flat spot, drill and then tap the hole. Nothing to it, right?

If I was running a welding shop that had to make money, I would have told him to take it someplace else. Around here however, I'm the someplace else. I take on a lot of jobs through the school just to help some kid out. I'm already on the clock, so it doesn't really matter if it takes longer than it would be profitable to do on the outside. I tackle some jobs just to show the students what a good craftsman is capable of and I do some jobs because I just don't know when to say no. The cylinder head being the perfect example.

The role of vocational education is to give the students the skills necessary to become employable. Give them a head start on getting and keeping a decent job. I try to run a big variety of work through the shop to maximize their exposure to the huge field that welding encompasses. I know they're not always going to be capable of doing all the work themselves, but they need to see it so they can decide the direction they want to take upon graduation or maybe inspire them to pursue similar types of jobs after improving their skills.

In my perfect world, I would bring my stuff in and keep them and me busy pretty much full time. However, as much as I hate to admit it, the students are not there just to assist me while I work on my stuff. I can get away working on quite a bit of it because it's welding and metal work. It sure would be nice just every once in a while, though, to tell everyone to leave me alone. Then, me and a couple of my aces could get some serious work done. I know that wouldn't last too long, nor should it. It would be nice, though.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wouldn't This Be Fun?

I've always had a thing for sidehacks. 500cc BMW kneeler with leading link front forks and a buddy who has a whole lot of faith in your driving abilities. I was a member of the Sidecar Racers Association for a couple of years. They're a group of like minded fanatics who race in Canada and in the US. Nice bunch of people at that time - see no reason they wouldn't still be. The outfits now are a little more sophisticated than the one in the photo but still not financially untouchable for a guy who just wants to have fun. If I could ever limit my interests to a workable number, I'd have me one.

From: here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Golden Gloves

We took three fighters to Indy last night and we had three wins. One was a walkover but he advances to the next round just the same. The other two fighters both stopped their opponents in the second round. John Mellencamp was there last night. I guess his son will be fighting next week. Maybe one of our guys will be facing him.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Truck Job +

The big truck is coming along quite nicely. The middle frame extension is in and all welded up. I'm thinking I might be getting a little too old for this type of work. After cutting the truck in half, I welded a piece of angle onto the bottom of the frame rails to prevent the new frame section from falling through when we dropped it into place. Then, when welding the frame rails back together, I beveled them and welded them from the top side first, welding them to the angle underneath them at the same time. I then cut the angle off and backgouged the frame joint with a grinder to insure 100% joint penetration and then welded the bottom groove. That laying on your back thing and running a 7" grinder across the groove and cleaning up the remnants of the angle ain't as easy as it once was. I'll be able to sleep nights knowing the weld will hold, however.

We're working on the back section now and making a combination tool and battery box. As soon as the new driveshaft comes in, we'll make a crossmember up for the center bearing and we should be able to send it down the road.

I was going to machine a few pieces up for the midget, high mileage car and bike building jig over the weekend, but took to the recliner instead. I came down with a real nasty cold/sore throat that's going to put me a little behind on a schedule that's perpetually behind, anyway.

It's going to start getting crazy around here pretty soon. The Golden Gloves starts Thursday and we've got four fighters scheduled for the first night. The high mileage vehicle is a little behind schedule and after our spring break in two weeks, all my students will turn stupid, even the good ones. To a lesser degree, perhaps, but all of them go stupid on me. I've learned just to embrace it and don't schedule much work for the end of the year. While they're all standing around like they're lovestruck with spring fever, I can usually get a lot of work done around the shop cleaning and fixing. They'll scramble the last couple of weeks of school to get enough done so they can pass the class and most all of them usually do. As long as you keep a pretty close eye on them, it all works out.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Boxing Exhibition

All the fighters from our exhibition a couple of weeks ago got medals for participating. I can hang my medal up next to my Dad's boxing trophy. He won the 147 pound division Golden Gloves in Michigan City in 1940. He was a scrapper - even fought a couple of pro fights. When I started fooling around with boxing he showed me how to wrap my hands and gave me a little advice. I never got too involved because I was married and going to college but like most things my brothers and I were involved in, he always supported and encouraged us. If he were still around, he would've had his 89th birthday the day before the fights. He would have really enjoyed being there.

The video is the second round of Shop Teacher Bob versus "Brent the Bruiser". I'm in the white shirt and red trunks. Watch for the "Holmes Hammer" at the start of the round - it's a big overhand right. It wasn't part of the script but one of the other fighters hollered for it so I turned it loose. "Fun for the whole family" - yeah, buddy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Gimme a Brake

Muzzle brake, that is.

I bought a Mosin-Nagant rifle a couple of years ago with the idea that I could practice some long range shooting on the cheap. Some day I want to try my hand at an elk hunt and I figured this would give me the opportunity to sharpen up my skills. The first time I took it to the range and tried shooting it from the bench, however, I discovered the metal butt plate and my broken collar bone that didn't heal straight weren't very compatible. I figured a muzzle brake and a rubber butt pad would be just the ticket. The butt pad helped but the muzzle brake I made wasn't very effective.

I got The Accurate Muzzle Brake by Troy Newlon for Christmas so I made myself the one in the picture. The book gives information on several designs with the pros and cons of each of them. It contains some real good information on the required machining techniques but doesn't give you any real dimensions for various calibers. Because of that, you're on your own as far as overall length, inside, outside and gas hole diameters. So I'll have to make a trip to the range to see how effective the thing is. If it works fairly well, I'll get a black finish on it to match the barrel. It's a lot of work making one of these things and threading the barrel. It wouldn't be worth it to have a gunsmith tackle the job. It would probably cost twice to three times what the gun cost. All it cost me was a tap, a piece of stock and a lot more time that it was worth to shoot a $100.00 rifle. But it is a job that I can put in the done column.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Big Job - Big Progress

We made big progress on the truck job yesterday. While the boys finished up the crossmembers by sanding and cutting the access holes in them, I cut the frame rails on the truck. We loaded the new frame section on top of the back half of the truck , pushed it back the eight feet, prepped the ends of the frame rails, then dropped the new section in the hole. It took a little while to get everything aligned properly but the whole operation went surprisingly well. I should be able to get most everything welded up today or in open shop tonight.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bike Show

I attended the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Indy yesterday. Man, it was impressive! If you're at all into bikes or skilled fabricators, you would have loved it. All kinds of bikes - racer bikes with carbon fiber everything, cargo bikes for hauling around everything including the kitchen sink, randoneering bikes with lights and bags, bamboo bikes, and bikes that were made just to have fun riding. Also in attendance were suppliers to the trade with lugs, tubing, saddles, wheels, and the tooling necessary to build a bicycle.

I got a chance to see bikes made by some of the legendary builders and some by people I had never heard of before. Some weren't exactly my cup of tea - I'm not sure the bamboo bike pictured above would do it for me - but the blue one with the bag on the front would. It's a randoneering type ride complete with a dynamo hub and light. It's also got a bottle cage that holds a flask rather than a water bottle. That would be just the thing to warm your innards after a long ride on a damp autumn afternoon. It's made by Ahearne Cycles and Mr. Joseph Ahearne said it would be about $6500.00 for one like it. Not cheap, but quality rarely is.

The green one was made by YiPsan Bicycles. I talked to Mr. Yip for a little while and he seemed to understand almost instinctively what I was looking for in a bike. I liked his building philosophy and his attitude towards putting out a product that would meet the customers needs and wants. A frame is going to cost you about $1500.00 plus the fork and go up from there. You could probably get a real nice bike of the kind I would want for about $3500.00. That would be a lugged steel frame, two tone paint, decent wheels and components. It would last me the rest of my life with only minimum maintenance and I could ride it for a 100 miles at a time. If I buy a new one, I'll be talking to Mr. Yip.

As mentioned, there were also suppliers to the trade in attendance as well. If I was the kind of guy interested in building my own bike, which I certainly am, I could buy a tube set and start to work next week. The photo above shows a fillet brazed frame that has been smoothed up slicker than snot on a doorknob. I could braze weld a frame easy enough or TIG weld one as many of the frames are these days, but I really like the traditional look of the lugged steel frames. If a guy didn't want to get too crazy with the type of tubing, about $300.00 would put you in the driver's seat. After buying the rest of the components and getting a custom paint job, you could come to appreciate the value a $3000.00 handmade bicycle is.

As soon as your 401 (K) recovers, support a custom bicycle builder and get you one. Some of these guys have a pretty long waiting list, you might want to get your order in now.