Saturday, July 31, 2010

Month at the Museum

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has an interesting proposition for you. How about coming to stay for a month? Like 24/7 for a month. Sound like fun? Then you need to get your proposal in quickly. The applications are due in by August 11th. The Missus told me about this the other day. In fact, she suggested I put in for it. I don't know if she just wants me out of the house or she knows that this is the kind of thing I would really enjoy. After looking into it, I must say it does look like quite the little adventure. You even get to spend the night in the U-505 submarine among other places. That's definitely a chance of a lifetime plus much better than some of the places I've slept in over the years.

The museum has a list of attributes and physical requirements they're looking for in their visitor. The physical requirements are actually less difficult than being a welding teacher. They require you to be able to lift 40lbs. - a box of welding rods is 50 - so that's covered. You need to be able to stand on your feet for long periods of time as well as climb stairs. Of course there is the mandatory drug and background check and I'm sure they want some assurance you're not afraid of the dark or will get spooked and start tearing up their priceless artifacts. Computer and photography skills are a plus, and you need to be able to deal with the public with a smile - they specifically mentioned the smile. Those are qualifications that most school teachers or car salesmen have so that's not going to eliminate too many people. The required DVD and essay then will be the deciding factors. You need a 60 second video of why you're qualified and a 500 word essay as to why you want to do this gig.

I'm working on applying. I talked to a co-worker, Jeff, about some help putting the video together and Surly is in the pipeline for a little photographic assistance. I've been fairly successful in the past writing applications such as this but the video has me a little concerned. I'm not all that creative to begin with and have basically no video experience. Jeff is and does. Time is the limiting factor.

I'm going to hookup with Surly and get a couple of photos and do a little brainstorming. I've got a week to get things done and still have plenty of time to get everything to Chicago without having to hand deliver it on the 11th. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Spillage

From here:

Besides BP's big oil leak, now we have one close to home. One of the lead stories in today's NWI Times is about the pipeline leak in Marshall, Michigan. The pipeline runs from Griffith to Sarnia, Ontario carrying 8 million gallons of crude oil per day. The leak spit out 840,000 gallons before they got it stopped. I've been to Marshall, it's a lovely town, damn shame it has to be polluted by crude oil.

Eventually we're all going to have to realize that driving around every where we want, whenever we want, is not the best policy. I think China just passed us up as the number one energy consumer. Not that we've gotten better, it's that China's using more. India is likewise using more as the standard of living rises. Something's going to have to give one of these days and you and I are going to see some tall prices at the pump again. I do find it interesting that the gas prices remained low when oil started gushing out into the Gulf, when any other time all there had to be was a bad weather forecast for that region and the price of gas would jump 20 cents. I guess it's just bad form to gouge when you're in the middle of the nation's largest environmental disaster of all time. They were able to bump it up as soon as the cap looked like it was going to work, however.

Well, I'm off to run some errands in my terribly inefficient internal combustion engine powered pickup truck, public transportation being nonexistent. They are planning on putting a bike lane in along the state highway I'll be taking. Even though I'll put in 60 miles today, I'd consider riding the bike and trailer if there was a decent way of getting up that way without putting myself too much in harms way. Instead of the new Illiana expressway they're planning on putting through here, maybe they could put a little effort into thinking of alternatives to more traffic criss-crossing the State of Indiana. You know, we all saw this coming back in the 70's. You would think by now people would realize that if you build more roads you don't eliminate traffic, you get more. In fact that's one of the selling points of the new expressway - new development. Dumb asses.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The mattock mentioned in the previous post.

It's a little rough but if we were to actually make a real one, we've got the moves figured out now. The rest of the parts will have to wait until I'm able to get back into the shop at school to get finished. And since they have the shop all packed full of bits and pieces for the remodeling project, that may be a while. It's like a maze just trying to walk through the place. I stopped in last night to drop off a couple of tools I used for the fair and I really don't see how they're going to get things finished before school starts. Couple this with the rest of the monkey business that's been going on and it should be a very interesting start to the new school year.

The blacksmithing crew: Craig, Andy and the guy in the witness protection program.

We were joking at the end of the session with one of my co-workers (Kevin) who had stopped by about getting our pictures taken with the fair queen and such and he mentioned the fact that my picture had never appeared on the blog - like Wilson from the show Home Improvement. This was the result. He also took another picture of the three of us that turned out rather nice. I'll save that one for the scrapbook. It's a nice keepsake for the time spent with two really nice young men who are going to be making their mark on this world pretty soon. It was a pleasure working with them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Last Day

The item in the photo will be a candle holder when it's completed. The leaf is the one that was in yesterday's post. There will be a candle cup and a drip pan (or do you say bobeche) centered on the bottom part when completed. Instead of hanging as it is now, I think I'll make a base for it directly under the candle cup. It will look good sitting on the mantle over the fireplace. The fireplace with the new tools and stand, I might add. I'll have to wait and finish them after the fair closes. It will be easier to join the parts with the MIG welder than trying to rivet or fasten them together with the limited resources at the blacksmith shop.

Craig was fumbling around for something to make out a heavy piece of stock we had laying around and quite facetiously I suggested making a mattock. A little while later after a lot of pounding, he and Andy pounded out a 1/2 scale version. We had all three of us working on it for a couple of the operations. Craig was holding while Andy and I did the striking. There's a lot of sweat involved in shaping the larger pieces but the three of us work really well together and it went pretty quickly. Hard work but fun.

It's supposed to be the hottest day of the week today, so I think we'll just tinker with some small stuff. Both of the boys say they're in for next year depending on situations. One guy is thinking internship and the other one is getting married. Pretty good reasons not to come work for free but I imagine they'll be there if they're able to. That would be nice.

I should have a few more pictures of our output to post in the next couple of days. Stay cool!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bits & Pieces

Iron Head

Iron Leaf

Couple of pieces from fair projects, or maybe mediocre projects, we'll have to wait and see. The iron head goes with a stand I'm making for some fireplace tools that I made last summer. The leaf is part of a candle holder. I'm just kind of winging it this summer. The shop is small, the tooling is limited and the crowds are small as well. We've had several friends and former students stop by to see us, which is very nice of course, but the majority of the crowd just passes us by. It's nice that I get a chance to work in a blacksmith's shop and tinker and it's always a lot of fun working with Craig and this year Andy as well. It's also nice to give something back to the community but if you're not reaching too many people, you have to wonder if it's worth it, especially when the temperature in the building is 100 before you light the fire. Maybe I'll put some effort into planning and next year have them all standing in awe "when I make my masterpiece" as Bob Dylan once sang. Then I could go retire out and be known county wide as the blacksmith who didn't know much but he worked real cheap.

Off to the fair.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ice Tongs

I made a pair of ice tongs yesterday at the fair. These of course are very practical in this day and age. I had an old book from the '30's that I was thumbing through looking for inspiration and saw these. In the building next door is a display of old and interesting tools so I figured what the heck, I need to make something. Craig worked on making a trivet for his mother and Andy started a candleholder but ran into a little trouble so that might get scrapped. The shop's a little small for three guys and there's only one anvil so it makes it a little interesting at times. The weather was cool due to a rain front moving in and should be cool again today, so there's a blessing. I ran three miles this morning and I'm planning on six tomorrow so I don't need to sweat profusely for four hours in front of the forge. I don't need to get dehydrated or anything and push the marathon training back any more than what is already is. I'll just try to take it easy this week and have fun pounding iron.

Monday, July 19, 2010

County Fair

Rusty Allis WD.

What a WD is supposed to look like.

WD 45 Diesel.

The county fair started last Friday and I started at the blacksmith's shop yesterday. I went down a little early to drop off the tools and get myself a porkburger - one of my must-haves during fair week - and to shop the tractors in the shed next door. Even though the featured marque is Oliver this year, I still dig the Allis-Chalmers. My older brother did a little farming and he had a couple of Allis's, including a WD 45 Diesel like the one in the above photo. I've got a WD myself, the condition of which is about half way between the ones in the other photos. It's amazing there's so many of these old tractors still around. The ones in the photos are from the 50's. As farms got bigger, so did the tractors. A lot of these were kept around to run a mower, elevator, pump or maybe do some cultivating instead of the mainstream field work. Probably the thing that kept most of them from going to the scrapyard was that they were so damn reliable. The engines are as simple as can be and were run at a very low state of tune, so they just kept working. There are very few farmers who want to part with anything that always works, especially if they can't get much money for it. Plus a lot of them are just big fans of machinery. Many of the tractors on display have been in the family since new.

Craig and I started off a little slow yesterday but we did hammer out enough metal to justify our existence. Craig made some brackets to get our stock up off the floor and I worked on a cooking set-up for a campfire. Nothing too fancy but good for openers. We're going to have another young guy working in the shop this week as well. Like Craig, Andy is also attending Purdue and is interested in just about everything I am - railroading, firearms, welding, photography. Should be a fun week for us. We'll be working 3 - 7 every afternoon. That way we can start in the heat of the day and get the shop up to over 100 real quick like.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tim Does Good

Tim, the young man in the above photo, stopped by the gym yesterday morning. The object he's holding is his perfect attendance certificate and diploma from the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. Tim was a student of mine while in high school and prior to leaving for Ohio, was also boxer at our gym. He will be starting a welding job on Monday at a company in Ohio putting his new diploma to good use.

Myself, and all of us at the gym, couldn't be prouder.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Response to Unk

Grumpyunk, who just happens to be one of my brothers, left a comment on my last post that got me thinking. So this is a response to him but also food for thought. First of all, both of us are getting older, so neither one of us are perhaps physically capable of doing as much as we once did, particularly in the high heat and humidity. I know both of us have plenty of experience working in the heat, starting with baling hay and continuing with foundry and welding jobs for me and construction jobs for him. So we've both paid our dues. Now we both have the luxury of working in the cool hours of the morning or late afternoons doing for the most part what it is that we want to do. I get up and run and sweat like a pig. He heads out to the garden and does the same. It's good for us from both a physical and mental standpoint. We're both in a real good place in our lives, even if his AC did quit.

In my case, however, I feel compelled to do something every summer simply because I have the time. When I worked at De La Garza, we had a little lunch room and when school started back up, everyone would sit around discussing what they did during their summer break. You'd hear things like "I played some golf and worked around the yard" or "I didn't have any money so I just stayed home". I always thought, what the f**k's wrong with you people? You have 2-1/2 months of vacation time while the average working stiff is lucky to have 2 weeks. Plus teachers get 2 weeks at Christmas and another week in the spring, plus paid holidays for Thanksgiving, etc. The best you could come up with is play a little golf or sit on your ass because you were broke?

I understand the being broke part. When I first started teaching, I too was broke. I solved that by getting a summer job. It was pretty easy to do back then, it would definitely be tougher now. By working summers I had enough money to do other things later on. Plus, I was building my skills as a craftsman by working in a variety of shops during those summers. Gaining money and skills, a definite win - win. After a few years, I was able to skip the summer job and do quite a bit of traveling with my son. Some of the best years of my life. We took a couple of trips in the old Ford van that I'll always remember. So whether I worked or I traveled, I always had something to tell the rest of the group when asked what I did over summer vacation.

I still feel compelled to do something over summer vacation. I had a good trip on the bicycle. For many people that would be the experience of a lifetime. It's almost a regular thing with me. However, it's almost as if I'm compelled to do this. It's like I'm taking a vacation for all the poor bastards of the world who can't. Just ask yourself (or someone who is not a teacher) what you would do if you had 2-1/2 months of vacation. I talked to my cousin the other day, and after telling him I was going nuts laying around for two weeks due to illness, he said that would be like Mecca to him. Two weeks with nothing to do - pure heaven. I'm sure that's true, the dude works a lot of hours at a job that is very physically demanding.

So there's the long and the short of summer vacations from Shop Teacher Bob's vantage point. All the little crap needs to get done and a little down time is good. By the end of the summer I still need to have something to point to besides playing a little golf and working in the yard. On reflection, it's a rather strange compulsion. To compound the need, I had a serious accident once and as a result of that I really appreciate being able to travel and do things - just being ambulatory, in fact. I'd hate to waste my second chance.

I must now go forth and have fun or build something.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Busy Doing Nothing

Seems like I've been real busy the last few days but don't really have much to show for it. Got up early and ran Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings - put in 3, 5 and 3miles. I did eight last Saturday. After the weekday runs, I worked outside for an hour or two each day before it got too hot. When I get cleaned up and cooled off, that's about all I want to do after that, other than taking a nap, that is. I did make it to the dentist this week and I'm hitting the eye doctor before going to the fights this afternoon. We've got five guys lined up for a bout in Indy. I also got my paper work in order to get my Certified Welding Inspector 9 year re-exam taken care of. Stained and varnished some trim, took a trip to the blacksmith shop yesterday to drop off some tools and get myself lined up for the county fair. I'll be working that gig all next week four hours a day starting on Sunday. Tomorrow I'll run 8-10 miles, hit the gym after that, cut some grass and finish loading up my tools and material for the fair.

I'm covering a lot of ground but as always, the scatter gun approach. With the marathon training, that's how it's going to be for a while. As the mileage gets longer, less time for other things. Just squeeze things in as best I can. I'm planning on doing some lathe work in the shop next chance I get - machine up some parts for the Rickati swingarm. I did get some cleaning done in the shop the other day. It's nice to see the top of the workbench.

Check out Surly's latest post. He's got a really nice photo from the Gary Air Show and he's going to be posting a few more I'm sure.

Roger and out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Mileage Car

There's a video posted on the Indiana Department Of Ed. website promoting the Super Mileage Challenge that my students were involved in for eight years. The video is a little over three minutes long and our car comes up at about 1:55. It's number 34U - red and silver, just like in the picture. Fun while it lasted.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Update

The train finally got underway and the crop duster left just about the time Surly showed up. Shortly after we started shooting, the crop duster showed back up so we got a chance to watch him work. The dude can sure fly that thing. It was a beautiful morning for it even if for him it was actually work. Surly got a chance to try out his new sights and I got the opportunity to miss the bullseye. The target was in the shade and made it a little hard to see with the peep sights on my gun. I did manage to improve a little after the sun came around and lit up the target a little better. If I was starving, I could probably hit a rabbit or a squirrel in the head at the 50 yard range we were shooting at, so I'm not that bad. I did manage to shoot a raccoon that was up on the roof between the eyes with just one shot a couple of years ago. That's while I was in my pajamas and holding a flashlight while it was spitting snow. Probably my best shot ever.

I'm going to look into finding some type of instruction and/or competition that I can use to improve my shooting. I know the NRA has some marksmanship programs. I think it would be fun to actually learn the proper way to shoot from the various positions - prone, sitting, kneeling, etc. As long as I'm shooting a 22 caliber, it doesn't cost much to shoot. There are lots of 22 caliber rifles out there that are less than $200.00. Cheap enough to get started, if you're interested. Like most hobbies, I know it could escalate into something pretty expensive, but for me at least, I don't see that happening. I'd just like to improve my skills and do a little bit more than just plink.

Shooting was fun and as always it was nice to spend some time with Surly.

The Sounds of Sunday Morning

I was awakened early this morning to what at first I thought was the sound of a dragon breathing. Once I was fully awake I realized it was a train that was parked about 50 yds. away and the noise was the low rumble of an idling motor and the bleeding off of air. I had heard a train earlier that morning but when your bedroom is only about 100 feet from the tracks, you get used to them and normally sleep right through them. The coal drags that feed the power plant normally have two engines up front and a pusher in the rear. Apparently, they cut the lead engine loose and that's what I heard about 5:00 AM. The breathing dragon was about 6:00 AM. I went out to see what was going on and I ran into a crewman/mechanic who said they were broke down. About 6:45 the train moved a little and then stopped again.

About 7:00 AM I heard an airplane flying low and went back outside to see what that was all about. The Gary Airshow is this weekend and occasionally they will fly this far down when practicing. However, it was the local cropduster. This guy is a real mechanic when it comes to flying that thing. I've seen him in operation several times before and he drops right into the field dodging trees and powerlines and does the same on the other end of the field after spraying. I've gotten some nice photos with my film camera in the past. The best vantage point for picture taking is from the railroad tracks - couldn't do that this morning, they were occupied.

Surly is supposed to be here at 8:00 AM so we can shoot our 22's before it gets too hot. Nice quiet Sunday morning. Trains, planes and guns all before 8:00. Looks like it's going to be a good day.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Kicks

As Ed Sullivan used to say, "A really big shoe", or something like that.

I bought myself some new running shoes to tackle the marathon with. I went to Human Race Sports and they put me on this cool little gizmo that checked my feet. You stand on two rubber pads and a digital image pops ups right in front of your eyes that shows an outline of your feet and where the pressure of your feet is the greatest. Red indicates the highest pressure fading to yellow and then blue where the pressure is the least. The store owner noticed right away that I stand with my feet splayed out a little - duck footed, as it were. I never really noticed it and I seem to run with both of my feet pointing straight forward but after he pointed it out I did see what he meant. I do know there's a difference between my right and left feet/legs when I'm pedaling the bicycle. The salesman took a couple of extra shots using some orthotics, including the arch supports I normally wear in my running shoes and work boots. They then use that information to help recommend the type of shoe best suited for your particular feet and the type of running you're planning on doing. There's something to be said for going to a professional.

Short story long, I ended up with some new shoes. Size 15, no less! I usually wear a 12 or 13 but running shoes always seem to be a little skimpy in the size department. Never had a pair of 15's before, though. Maybe my big toe won't come poking through any time soon this way. I put 4 miles in this morning and they felt pretty good. Legs just a little tender this afternoon but I haven't been running much plus the mechanics of new shoes always brings on a little tenderness. So the marathon training is officially underway, both for myself and my partner at the gym, Jimmy. The Whistlestop Marathon course is open for 6 hours, so all we have to do is stay under about a 14 minute/mile pace and we're marathoners.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bicycling for Health and Beauty

Image from here:

I'm feeling much better these days. Went back to the doctor on Thursday and no Lyme disease but another two weeks of antibiotics. I talked to my partner from Shop Teacher Bob's Big Adventure and he's been sick as well. Must have been something in the water. Regardless, even being sick for a couple of weeks was still a pretty good trade-off for the trip.

I've started working out a little - some bag work at the gym, a little biking and a short walk/jog yesterday. I got the info about the Bass Lake bike race in the mail a couple of days ago. It's the 25th and there's a 2 mile race walk the following weekend. I've been pretty successful at both of these events in the past, so I'd like to be able to compete in both of them again. Not much time to train for the bike race but I think I'll sign up. As long as I continue to feel better and the weather cooperates, I should be able to have a little fun without embarrassing myself. I need to play catch-up on the marathon training and doing some half way serious cross training wouldn't hurt.

It's time to get serious about getting some work done around the shack as well. I'm going to try and get up early, get my exercise in, and then put in a few hours working on projects everyday. Might be something worth reading about here that way plus I'll have something to show for my time when school starts.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Have a good one!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kevin Makes the Paper!

The NWI Times had an article today about my good buddy and co-worker, Kevin. We've run lots of miles together and I was fortunate to be part of the "greatest day of Kevin's life" up to this point. The dude's a great school teacher and, like most of us at my school, is often frustrated by the roadblocks they throw in your path when you want to go above and beyond the call. Unlike me, who bitches about it and then retreats farther back into my cave, Kevin keeps pushing forward. Take a few minutes and read the article. Check out the little dig he gets in about half way through it about his resume. Nice touch, that.

Keep up the good work Kevin.