Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trials & Tribulations

Made it back from Indy after a successful weekend. We got our three official ten lap runs in, in spite of some crappy weather. IMSTEA used a new timing and scoring system so they weren't able to get us off on time and it looked like some of the transponders weren't being read correctly on every run. I won't know the official results for a few days but when I do I'll have a complete write up on the High Mileage blog complete with photos.

We've been experiencing some problems at the school, one of which is the lack of bus drivers. It's nigh on impossible to take any field trips now. We had one of the assistant principals drive the bus down with the rest of the crew on Monday, the driver, team captain and I having come down on Sunday for tech inspection. Even though she has been working here three years, she had no idea what we were doing or where she was going. After dropping off the students, she took the bus and left for a while. When she returned she stayed outside the track, never even coming to the pit area to check out what was involved with running our car. Nice having your boss showing all that interest in a project that the students have worked on for the better part of a year.

Our team captain came down with a dose of food poisoning or something. He was sick as a dog and spent a couple of hours napping in the truck. He finally shook it off and was able to enjoy the day but I felt really bad for the kid. And to top it all off, the weather was crap. It rained all day Sunday and was sprinkling when we got to the track Monday morning. It was one of those cold damp days that has the wind chilling you to the bone. The high note of the event was the fact that I sold the car Sunday to Vincennes University so I am now officially retired from high mileage competition.

After I returned to school on Monday, the union was marching and carrying signs prior to the school board meeting so I stuck around for that. We garnered some good publicity for our cause with local television and newspaper coverage. The school board still went ahead and laid off the phys-ed and art teachers in spite of our efforts, however. Once again, nice to know the people you work for are concerned about what's best for the students. I've now come to the realization that things are totally screwed up on all levels - building, corporation, state, and federal. I don't see how it's going to improve in my last few years of teaching but eventually it will have to either get better or the whole country will be in the crapper. God help us all if we can't salvage it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

High Mileage Competition

I'm heading back to Indy this weekend for the Super Mileage Challenge sponsored by IMSTEA. This will be my seventh or eighth year of involvement and also my last. The car was done in time and looks really nice. We took it out for a last minute spin today and it fired right up and worked like a charm. Hopefully it will stay that way all day Sunday for inspection and Monday for the competition. I'm going to go over to school tomorrow and make sure I've got everything lined up for the substitute and that we've got all the tools and supplies needed. I always want to take a complete machine and welding shop with me but we've always been able to take the MacGyver approach to fix any thing that went south with rivets, safety wire and duct tape. Hopefully, this weekend all we'll need is a little bit of sunshine to make things go well. I'll get some photos up of our car and some of the more interesting cars from other teams the first part of next week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Catching my Breath

I'm taking it easy this week, project wise. I set some time aside in the schedule for working on the high mileage car but my man Rich has got things pretty well under control. We've already taken the car for a test drive, so we know it works. Rich and a couple of the other team members finished up the rest of the detail work this morning, so we should be golden. The Missus is going to go shopping for the team to get us some grub to take along. I just checked the weather and it looks like rain for the weekend and next Monday - that'll make it a lot of fun. We will have Senator Lugar showing up at the tech inspection, so we've got that going for us. We'll also have a for sale sign on the car. This is going to be the last of it for me.

I've been able to start riding my bike to work most every day now. I'm planning on heading out on the bike trip the first week of June - got to get some miles in. I officially started my training this week. Putting miles in on the bike and getting some running in. There's a metric century (62 miles) bike ride on the 15th of May and a 5K (3.1miles) run the 16th that I'd like to do. I'm never fast so I don't have to worry about losing any speed by riding the bike the day before the run. I'm going to sign up for the 5K for sure and wait and see about the weather for the bike ride. This is the 35th anniversary of the run and I actually ran in the first one. It was originally a 10.5 mile race and it was my first organized road run. A lot of the same guys who beat me then are still beating me now. Of course, the majority of that original group wouldn't be able to run around the block if someone out a gun to their head 35 years later. You just have to stay with it.

Get outside, people. Plant that garden, go for a walk - just get out of the house and enjoy life.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

School Board

Blogging is pretty darn self-indulgent. I write about whatever I feel like and while I may actually have an audience, I write mostly to please myself. I wish for this post that I actually did have a large audience because people need to hear what's going on.

My school corporation, like all school corporations in Indiana, needs to trim the budget due to cuts made at the state level. Unlike many of the other school corporations, my corporation, by which I mean the local school board, seems to have lost touch with the guiding principles that should be followed when making these tough budget decisions, especially the ones resulting in the layoffs of personnel.

In a nutshell, the school board wanted the teachers to take a reduction in pay. The union did not think a reduction of that magnitude was necessary and offered an alternative plan that more than made up for the budget deficit and no teachers would have lost their jobs. The school board said no to the union proposal and decided to eliminate all physical education and art positions.

The point of this is not to discuss the details of negotiations but to wonder how in the hell are these decisions arrived at and how is eliminating physical education and art from schools going to help make things better, either for the students or for the teachers who are looking at losing their jobs. I've been teaching for over thirty years and hardly a day goes by that I don't wonder where the policy makers, regardless of whether it's at the national, state, or local level, come up with some of the craziness they do. In this case, however, this is beyond the normal silliness. It's just plain cruel.

Indiana has a school board association and it has a code of ethics. I would suggest to all school board members everywhere, but especially my school board, to read carefully the code of ethics.
The first and last items are quoted below:

A school board member should honor the high responsibility which his membership demands: By thinking always in terms of "children first."
A school board member should meet his responsibilities to his community: By winning the community's confidence that all is being done in the best interests of school children.

Put the "children first" - pretty darn simple.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back to Normal?

We finished up with the Golden Gloves last night. As a club we did really well, winning half of our fights - the complete story can be found at the gym link. We have a fundraiser Sat. night and then things will slow down a little for me. The weekend of the 24th & 25th, Jimmy is taking fighters to the Junior Olympics in Terre Haute. I'll be taking the high mileage team to Indy on that Sunday and Monday.

In the one photo, Rich is installing the skin on the high mileage car. We've already driven the car and everything seems to check out well. Just a few minor things to complete this week and we should be ready to go. This will be my last year of involvement with this program. It's been very interesting and a lot of fun for both me and the students, but I just can't devote the necessary time plus there are a few other issues I've had to deal with over the years. Hopefully, we can go out on top with the car running well and with good weather.

The other two photos are of a belt buckle a kid made and the front end of the bicycle project I posted a photo of some time back. Now that the end of the school year is approaching and the weather is improving, most of the boys have gone into shut down mode. It's nice to see a couple of them are actually working and being creative. Most of the others will go into panic mode in another few weeks when they realize if they don't get busy they will fail the class. Which may also mean they won't graduate. It would be so much easier to just do a little something everyday but I try to quit telling them after the one thousandth time.

I got the gym van back together so we could take it last night but I still have a little touch up on the passenger side and then I'm going to tackle the driver's side. I'll get that back in the shop after the Junior Olympics. In the mean time, I'm going to try and resume work on the Rickati project and a couple other things. I need to start running and training for my bike ride this year. Now that things are starting to approach the normal level of my hectic schedule, I should be able to find time for that. It's raining right now but should clear up this afternoon. I'm going to try and get in a couple of miles, but maybe after a nap.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I was doing my evening computer time when I received a phone call updating me on the results of this evening's school board meeting. And then when I checked the Bookpuddle blog, I found this:

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

-- Bertrand Russell --

Hard to negotiate with fools and fanatics.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bat Man!

I had the pleasure of touring the Hoosier Bat Company in Valparaiso on Saturday, along with several other "tech ed" teachers. With the average age of the group close to 60 years old, we were really a bunch of old school shop teachers. Like all old school shop teachers, we're interested in all things manufacturing and this was a very interesting tour. The owner, Mr. Cook, enlightened us not only on how he makes baseball bats but also some of the ins and outs of the politics of Major League Baseball and the politics of our country.

Hoosier Bat Company is a small firm capable of turning out up to 200 bats per day. There are several major league players using their bats and there are about 7 minor league teams within a 100 mile radius of the firm that they sell bats to as well. They even have one of their bats in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Of course they sell to individuals like you and me. You can have the same bat as Manny Ramirez for the same price. They offer about 150 different models and shapes - lengths, diameters, weights, type of wood - whatever the customer wants, they can make. In fact, Hoosier Bat makes a bat with three different types of wood that has been finger jointed and glued together. That's pretty darn clever.

If you're in the market for a baseball bat, and of course there's no better sound in spring than hearing the crack of the bat, then check out Hoosier Bat Company. They're the best there is.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring is Sprung

Shop Teacher Bob flying a kite just before the rain moved in. I thought about Ben Franklin and decided it might be prudent to call it quits. The flowers are from another one of my magnolias. This one is a Loebner's magnolia. It is just covered in blossoms this year. I got the newly repaired mower out and noticed the fruit trees are starting to bud while I was mowing around them.

Going to be another busy week. Working on the van sheet metal, fighters going to Indy on Thursday, the normal weekly stuff that's always going on, plus I'm going on a field trip Saturday morning. I'll be sure to post about that one.

Time to start working the garden pretty soon. If the weather's good this weekend, I'm going to try and get mine spaded up. Get outside people!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Educational Reform

The Goals of Sloyd Education:

To instill a taste for and an appreciation of work in general.
To create a respect for hard, honest, physical labor.
To develop independence and self-reliance.
To provide training in the habits of order, accuracy, cleanliness and neatness.
To train the eye to see accurately and to appreciate the sense of beauty in form.
To develop a sense of touch and to give general dexterity to the hand.
To inculcate the habits of attention, industry, perseverance and patience.
To promote the development of the body's physical powers.
To acquire dexterity in the use of tools.
To execute precise work and to produce useful products.

Otto Salomon, 1900

It's just that simple - 100 years later the educational policy makers are still farting around trying to come up with something that works. If we had stuck with this, no child would have been left behind. They really need to do something about that big blind spot in their rearview mirrors.

From: http://playbuildmake.blogspot.com/ by way of Wisdom of The Hands.

And to keep everything in perspective: Happy Easter Everyone! Eat your ham and count your blessings.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Full moon taken from the front yard with the digital. If you click on it, there's actually some decent shadow detail along the tree line. Downtown Indy was just gorgeous last night we we left the Armory. I need to shoot some nighttime photos there sometime. Digital's fun but I really want to get back in the darkroom. I've got some nice negatives that I want to print.

It's been a pretty good week, other than the stupid crap that has been going on at school due to the financial fiasco. We took home our first championship trophy of what will, hopefully be several, at the Golden Gloves tourney. I got the new parts on the touring bike, another piece of the van patched and I got the lawnmower running.

Rather than buy a new bike, I sprung for new wheels. Now instead of having a 5 speed freewheel on the 27" rear, it now has a 7 speed cassette riding on a 700C wheel. The 27" tires are starting to get a little hard to find and the cassette on the freehub is stronger with less chance of bending an axle than the freewheel setup. I was able to find a cassette that had the same 34 tooth low gear as the old freewheel had, plus I don't have as big a jump between gears with the additional two speeds. With new tires, tubes and a new chain I'm just about ready to go. I need to tighten up the brake cables a little and take the pedals apart and grease them but there's plenty of time for that. I'm going to start riding it to work and put some miles on it to see if the wheels loosen up. If so, I can true them up before I go on the big trip. Because the new back wheel is a little wider than the old one, I need to see how well the trailer fits, as well. Now that the weather is getting warm, I'm getting antsy.