Tuesday, October 30, 2012


"Momentum is how heavy you are multiplied by what the hell you are doing" - John Dobson.

I got that quote from Bunch of Amateurs by Jack Hitt. I just finished reading the book and while it wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, not a bad read just the same. John Dobson plays just a small part in the book but he's played a big role in the making of telescopes by amateurs. I bought a telescope a few years ago but have only set it up a few times. Next year I'm planning on adding the deck off the south end of the new barn and then I'll move the telescope out there where it'll be a little more user friendly location. With all of my other projects, I can't see me grinding my own lenses and building a big telescope. I can see the attraction, however. After my post the other day about my brother calling me from the Great Beyond and my looking for the path to enlightenment, if I start talking about the cosmic mysteries of outer space, you'll probably think I've gone off the deep end, so I'll just leave that alone for awhile. I do find the concept of an infinite universe very intriguing, however.

And, I do like the above quote. I've got a little momentum going nowdays on my projects that I'd like to keep going. I broke down the tires from the other two rims on the VW yesterday. I used to work for a blacktop outfit many years ago and rainy days were spent changing truck tires or hauling stone from the quarry. After you've changed a bunch of truck tires and more than a few motorcycle tires, the little tires on the VW aren't much of a challenge as long as you've got a couple of decent tire irons. I got them popped off in about the same time it would have taken to drive uptown to the tire place. Now I need to sandblast and paint the wheels. I'll take them back to the tire shop to get the new skins mounted and balanced. By taking the tires off the wheels myself, I'll be able to throw the old tires in a ditch along one of the back roads like the other hillbillies around here. Or maybe I'll set them on fire. You won't be able to tell in a few days when everyone around here sets their damp piles of leaves on fire and then allows them to smolder for hours at a time.

While I'm able to sit quite comfortably in front of the computer belly aching about the knotheads around here burning leaves, my heart goes out to those suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Rain, snow, flood, wind, fire - they're really catching hell all up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The wind that took my barn down was estimated to be about 100 miles per hour, so I've got a much better appreciation now of what a hurricane is like. No thanks, don't need that at all. Just hang tough people. Better days are coming.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bike, Bug and Barn

Busy weekend. I finished up the bumper brackets for the VW, as you can see in the photo. Primed, painted and ready to install. I took them over to the high school and sandblasted them the other day and the tip in the sandblaster was about shot. I had already cut some pieces to make some more before the heart attack and they were laying on the end of the lathe, so I finished those up. I'll drop them off today for the new guy.

I finished cleaning  up the second fork leg for the 900 project. Next step is to swap out the seals and get those installed on the bike. I"ll install the new brake disk on the right side and get the calipers mounted. Then I can order some new brake lines and a new master cylinder. Instead of the little metal clip with the fold over tabs that prevent the bolts on the rotor from backing out, I'm going to safety wire everything. When I've got everything mocked up as it should be, I'll decide where to drill the holes in the bolt heads and get that done.

The big job for the weekend was finishing the barn roof. Taking the old sheets down was easy enough but putting the new ones up was a little tricky working by myself. It's not that I can't find help, I just prefer it that way. I made up a support scaffold that the sheet would rest on while I was fumbling around trying to get a starter hole punched in it and get a couple of screws in the sheet to hold it. Actually worked real well. It took me about three hours to replace the sheets and get the trim piece on top sealed and bolted back down. About an hour more than I figured but I still managed to see most of the Bears game. About the only thing left on the barn is to finish wrapping the pieces on the sides of the big doors in aluminum and put the stop/trim piece on that keeps the wind from blowing in along the sides. 

Sheet held in place with the support scaffold
Fold down table

The last sheet had to be trimmed, so instead of dragging out a pair of horses I used one of the fold down tables that I built into the wall. Glad the Missus thought of that. A 4' x 8' table that takes about ten seconds to set up and less time still to put away. Sweet.

Finished roof
Not sure what's on the agenda next. I need to check the To-Do List and see where I'm at. I want to get the other pair of wheels for the VW sandblasted, get the new tires mounted up and start on the mechanicals on the right front. I also need to take a look at the snowblower and figure out what locked up on that, and a little work on the lane would be a good idea as well. It's getting a little rough and bumpy.

As always, lots to do but I'm makin' a dent in it.

Have a good week.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Greetings From Out In Left Field

I don't normally like to discuss politics or religion too much. This year the politics thing has put a burr under my saddle, so I'm more vocal than normal. In fact, on the education front, they've managed to not only put a burr under my saddle, they've chapped my ass. Hopefully things will improve after the election. Now onto the religion thing.

I'm not overly religious but I definitely feel the world is much too complex and wonderful to just be an accident. In rehab I picked up some pointers about stress relief that could include breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, etc., and since I've got a pretty good handle on the diet and exercise part of the "live long and prosper" plan, I've been looking into meditative practice or something like it. I don't know much about it but I've always been intrigued by the guy going to the mountain top like in The Razor's Edge. I've never fully understood the mystic side of life but that doesn't mean it ain't so.

Now, here's the set-up: In my house, unexplainable things, while not common, have occurred often enough that we don't question them any more. The Missus has some Native American blood in her and I truly believe that in another time she would have been a shaman or a medicine woman of some sort. She has a gift. She has things come to her in dreams. We'll have some discussion about a departed loved one and she'll get a phone call a day or so later. There won't be anyone on the line but it's happened enough that now we just take it as a sign that whoever we were talking about is checking in and letting us know that they're glad we haven't forgotten them. She told me the other day that she dreamed about my recently departed brother John three nights in a row.

So the other day I've got a little time to kill after running an errand before I have to go to work so I stop at the bookstore to see about some type of custom car magazine and I decide to check out the selection of books on meditation since the local library didn't have much and I find one that looks promising in the section where they have the stuff on Eastern religions. Now I can get in touch with my inner Zen, find the true path, or whatever helps me keep from having another myocardial infarction. That gets me to thinking I should dig out a bible one of these days to look up a couple of things in the New Testament that might be helpful as well.

Later that evening, I head out to the barn to put a little time in on the VW. I'm sitting on my little bucket and lean forward to check along the bottom floor pan seam and when I click the edge of the sheetmetal with my thumbnail, I hear this beautiful bell sound. I try it again and just a click. I check the bucket and there's nothing in it to have made the noise when I leaned forward. I didn't drop anything on the concrete but I know I heard a bell. Remembering the words of Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, I say to myself, "every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings". Then it dawns on me. It's Johnny calling. He wouldn't call the house, he'd call me out in the shop. After the wife had the dreams, I should have known he'd be checking in.

And the next day when I went to work, the Gideons were passing out New Testaments. The Lord does move in mysterious ways.

Have a good weekend and keep the faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Education Solution (Partial)

I started writing his post last week after getting a mention on Handverker by Frankie Flood due to my post about Lindsay books (thanks BTW). If you have checked out Handverker you know that Mr. Flood teaches various metal working courses at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He and his students turn out some really cool stuff. About the time I was ready to post this thing, I received my Time magazine in the mail and it was chock full of info and facts about college education as far as price, enrollments, etc., so I decided to postpone posting until I read the magazine. Glad I did. Very interesting - big article about the growing alternative to sitting down in a classroom by receiving an education via technology of some sort.

I also received my Inspection Trends magazine the other day. Inspection Trends is published by the American Welding Society for "Materials Inspection and Testing Personnel". The editor's column speaks to the issue of the political season that we're in and how the politicians when talking education are always talking of the need to get everyone to attend a four year university.

..... I believe the politicians' rhetoric gives our young people unrealistic expectations. Now I'm not saying that people can't rise above their beginnings. I firmly beleive in the American dream that anyone can be whatever they want to be through education and hard work. I'm saying it makes kids feel there is something wrong with them if they don't want to go to college; that it makes them ashamed to say, "I want to be a carpenter, electrician, cook, landscaper, welder, weld inspector (you fill in the blank)." And it makes parents not want to encourage their children to become a part of those professions.

And I received my AWS "This Week in Welding" e-mail. This one contained an article from Bloomberg Businessweek dealing with manufacturing and the shortage of qualified people. It had some pretty interesting statistics. The average annual salary for welders and Bachelor Degree holders is about the same at $47,900. The average for an Associate Degree is $36,300. Enrollment at four year colleges is up about 21% since 2005 vs 18% at two year schools. The article also mentioned Caterpillar and their need for qualified people in the same paragraph discussing a young guy going to school so he could leave his $55,000 per year job to make 100 large. This would lead one to believe Caterpillar would be one of those high paying jobs. However, from what I've read recently in the paper, new hires are going to be lucky to make $30,000.

Now, in an attempt to try and tie this all together, you can go to UWM and learn some real cool machining, metalsmithing or 3D printing, which looks to be the wave of manufacturing's future. I'm not sure what the job market for those graduates is but I'm guessing an education there would run you close to $100,000 by the time you include your room and board, tuition, textbooks, and the fact that most people take more than four years to complete a bachelor's degree. That's going to require a decent job to pay back the student loans. If not, welcome to the world of the starving artist. You could go to work for Caterpillar after investing a tidy sum at a technical school or community college and make less than the average graduate does. Or you could get into an apprenticeship program provided you wanted to work in the construction trades because they're about the last ones to offer those. The money's good when you're working, as are the fringes, but that's a tough nut to crack. You could also take a bunch of the college courses offered over the internet at no charge, get a whole lot smarter but not end up with a degree. That's changing, however. I'd guess that ten years from now if you want a college degree, there'll be an app for that on your phone.

After reading back the last paragraph, that probably didn't tie much of anything together so let's try this instead: Industry says they can't find enough qualified people but they don't/can't pay them a living wage.The politicians and the schools say everyone needs to go to a four year college but that's becoming way too costly for the average guy. And even if they could afford it, would they need it? Most jobs in Indiana don't really require a four year degree, certainly not those in manufacturing. Those require skills. Skills that are learned on the job or in a vocational school. Not the kind of education that lends itself to internet delivery. Basically then, it looks like we're stuck in the same place we've been for awhile now and no-one is offering a decent big picture solution to what education and business need to be doing. Maybe I should get to work on an educational manifesto so I'll have it ready to go after the upcoming election. I don't think it would be that difficult to come up with the solution. The problem would be trying to overcome the inertia and entrenched agendas in order to implement it.

Just off the cuff, here's a couple of ideas:

Every kid entering high school declares himself business, college prep, military or vocational. Like it used to be, sort of. Entrance exam required with mandatory remediation. If you don't have the math to be a machinist, you'll need to take a shop math course. And lets call it what it is. It doesn't have to be Tech Ed or CTE.

High school curriculum is set by collaboration with business, college, armed forces, trades. The end product users, if you will. Exit exams reflect the different curricula. No weighted classes. No reason for a kid to be penalized for taking a business or vocational class because it doesn't have weighted status. End product users need to give priority to hiring graduates and have a decent feedback loop. If you can't find the people, maybe it's because your not involved enough.

First year of higher education offered at the high school. No reason English 101, etc. can't be offered at a high school. If you stick for the fifth year you can also take a couple of college courses and a couple more high school courses - get a double major. In fact, maybe do like some of the technical schools. Offer free training any time you want to come back.

As soon as you finish your diploma requirements, leave high school or stick around for the college offerings. There is absolutely no reason to keep a kid in school for the full four years if he can get out earlier.

No driver's license without a high school diploma (with certain exceptions). You quit school, stay home. There needs to be incentives to stay in school and penalties for not.

Stop penalizing schools for suspending/expelling students. Make schools an inviting place. Don't allow a few knuckleheads to disrupt things for those that want to learn.

There you go. Arne Duncan's got nothing on me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

VW's In The Loop

I planned on getting the roof sheets replaced on the barn Sunday afternoon - even had some volunteer help - but I didn't have the adaptor to hook up the socket in the cordless drill and the wind started to pick up a bit. So I bailed out of that project and went to work on the VW instead. I got some progress made. I got most of the boxes of parts located and took a mental inventory of what I have and then started doing a little actual work on the car. I had some of the car sanded but not yet primed, so I took care of that. I've still got a couple of spots on the exterior that need some patch work. Actually not much left on the outside of a serious nature. The inside and floor pan on the driver's side is a different story, however, but I'd like to get the outside finished up. At least have all the parts hung on and the body in primer.

Add a fender and do a little rust repair and the bodywork's done  on this side
Monday I put the license plate light and the bracket for same on the deck lid. I took the passenger side fender off to work on a dent. While it's off, I'm going to install the new wheel cylinder, brake line and clean and paint the bumper mount. I've got some fender welt to put between the fender and the body that I'll install when I put the fender back on. When I get that side done, I'll repeat the process on the other side. I still need to get some rear fenders. I'm planning on frenching in the taillights. The proper fenders for this rig have a big hole and a set-back for the taillights that will make frenching the lights difficult. If earlier fenders will bolt up properly, I'll buy a pair of those. I might have to make a trip back to Mid-America or to J.C. Whitney where I can compare the early and the late models side by side. I made some cans for installing the tailights a couple of years ago so those are already to go. I just need to figure out what fits and then get it done.

I also got most of the lacquer removed from the other fork leg for the 900. I think I've got the concept/look for that job figured out finally. Now it's just a matter of getting after it, like on the Volkswagen. I want to get the priming and body work done on the VW before it gets too cold for that kind of work, however. I've got an outside entrance to my basement. As soon as I get the remainder of the welding done on the 900, I might move that operation down the basement for the winter. If I start falling behind schedule due to cold weather, that'll be "Plan B". As long as I keep busy on one or the other of these projects, there should be wheels turning next spring. Man, it'd be something if the 900 and the VW were runners come springtime.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's a Start

I'm underway on both the 900 and the VW projects

I got one of the fork legs cleaned up for the front end on the bike. The aluminum parts on the bottom of the fork are sprayed with some type of lacquer when they're new to prevent them from corroding. Unfortunately, the lacquer gets dinged up and turns yellow over time. This one still needs a little more polishing but like the title of this post states, it's a start.

I got two of my new tires mounted and put on the VW yesterday. I bought a pair of wheels at a swap meet a few years back. I sand blasted and painted them right after I got them, so they've been knocking around in the barn long enough to get scratched up a little but they look pretty good with the new skins on them. When I got the car, the previous owner was working on turning the car into some type of Baja bug. It's got big tires and plastic fenders on the rear. I'm not sure what he was planning on in the front but he had cut the fender openings to accommodate some type of larger tire and wheel combo. The edges of the wheel opening were in the as cut condition when I got it - no longer a rolled edge on them to give them some strength - just a sharp edge to cut yourself on. I smoothed up the cut and welded a piece of 1/4" rod along the opening. I also lowered the front end down a little so the larger opening isn't as noticeable as it would have been. 

I stuck the turn signal on the fender for the photo op just to see how things were shaping up. The turn signals are off an earlier model than what was originally on the car. The Super Beetles had big-ass, federally mandated turn signals, both front and rear. Ugly as sin. The replacements are a nice compromise between size and looks. 

The body work on the car was really rough when I got the car. I fixed quite a bit of it, stripping most of the paint off and patching up some rust spots. Unfortunately, it got knocked around while in the Weld Shop so it's got a few more dents in it now than it should have. I can't see this project as a candidate for a primo restoration, so a few bumps aren't going to hurt much. My intention originally was to try my hand at some mild customizing so I could develop my skills a little in order to work on another project car that I have. That's still the plan. I have no intentions of becoming a body and fender man but I do want to improve my automotive sheet metal working skills. I'm as good as the next guy when it comes to patching rust holes but I'd like to try some old school things like frenched tail lights and a sunken radio antenna.

The weather is supposed to be good today. I've got some fun things lined up for this morning but if the wind doesn't blow too much, I'm planning on replacing the roof sheets on the back of the barn that got damaged when it blew down later on today. I had to remove several of the sheets to repair the trusses and I never tightened everything back down like it should be when I re-installed them, knowing that I was going to have to replace them anyway. Hopefully, today will be the day.

Finishing up one project and getting a good start on a couple others. Just as it should be.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beautiful Day

Today was Book Fair/Grandparents Day at the elementary school where my oldest grandson goes. Grandpa/Grandma show up, buy the little tyke a book, have a cup of coffee and a piece of coffee cake and there you go. The school makes a couple of bucks, they encourage the little tykes to read and you get the grand parents in the school. No problem by me. It was nice to spend a little time in my grandson's environment and nice to see all the other old farts taking an interest as well.

As you know, I just recently retired from the public school classroom, so I'm naturally a little prejudiced, but I'll tell you what, those elementary school teachers have to have their own special corner of heaven waiting for them. The classrooms were all decorated nicely, the teachers and all the staff were all smiling and helpful and the grandson can actually read, write and do some arithmetic. I don't know how they do it, but they manage to get the students to sit still long enough to get something across. God bless the elementary school teachers of the world.

After leaving the elementary school, I headed for work under blue skies with  the gorgeous fall colors of the trees lining the backroads. Beautiful day, indeed. And to cap it off, I meet with the doctor this afternoon to discuss my blood test results and make a long range health plan. The cholesterol number on this test was 124, so the cheapy test wasn't a fluke. Life is good here today, boys and girls.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Terre Haute Wrap-Up

Here's a couple of shots from Mid-America Motorworks. They've got a nice little museum and showroom. Since they also sell Corvette parts, they've got a nice collection of stuff dealing with those as well. They sponsor a big Fun Fest every year. If I remember correctly, next year it runs from May 31 to June 2. I should mark my calender for that one and take a run down there - boring but easy drive. If I got real busy, I could drive the bug down. I picked up enough parts the other day to start making a dent in that project. I'm looking forward to getting them installed.

These are handles inside the interlocking tower at the Railroad Museum in Terre Haute. It's a pretty small place but they get a ton of train traffic that runs by there. There were four or five trains that went by in the short time we were there. It's cool being able to watch them go by from up in the tower.

Silver Crown engine here. According to the driver, the Toyota engine puts out about 800 horses. The engine is basically the same as those running in the Busch series with a piston and camshaft change. It was a relatively small field Saturday but there were cars powered by Ford, Mopar, Toyota, and the old, reliable, small block Chevy. This is the first time I've had a chance to look at the cars up close in a few years. It was especially interesting seeing these after visiting the 500 Museum of Wheels and being able to compare the technology changes that have gone into the cars. 

The safety features are much improved with full roll cages, arm restraints, and contour fitting seats. Electronic ignition and fuel management rather than magneto and mechanical fuel injection. The chassis and driveline components are now CNC machined or laser cut so they look really nice, but surprisingly, the cars aren't that much different from a car built 70 years ago. I think that's one of the reasons I like the open wheel cars as much as I do. They're purpose built race cars but they still look like the average guy could put one together in his garage at home and go racing. A Speedway Motors catalog and a big checkbook and you've got yourself a racer. No engineer required.

Russ Gamester's Silver Crown car sponsored by First Financial Bank. First Financial used to be the First National Bank of Terre Haute and their logo has been on the side of race cars for many, many years. I'm sure there's a book out there that documents the history of Indiana's racing heritage and the involvement of the people from the First National Bank, Root Glass and Clabber Girl and others from Terre Haute. Lots of history in Terre Haute. I should look into that now that I'm a man of 80% leisure.

And lest I forget, Happy Birthday Surly!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Racing Weekend

500 Museum of Wheels

Vintage Racers at The Action Track

Great weekend! Cuzzin Ricky and I headed south to the Action Track for sprint and Silver Crown car races. Got chilly on Friday night dropping into the 40's but the sprint cars seemed to really like the air. The Friday race was a rain date so it was just a bonus for the weekend. I'm a big fan of the Silver Crown cars that were scheduled for Saturday. They're a little longer than the sprints and they really get them hung out in the corners. They're not quite as fast as the sprints due the larger size and smaller motors but they put out about 800 horsepower. That's enough to put on a great show on a half mile dirt track.

They had a couple of incidents during the practice sessions. One guy hit the wall hard and then barrel rolled and had an oil fire on top of it. Another driver managed to put the car outside the track. He was out of the car and back on the right side of the wall within about a minute and he was even able to make the show. The other guy was pretty scary. They loaded him in the ambulance on a back board and then the ambulance just sat there for a bit. They never made an announcement about his condition that we heard. Rick and I were both concerned but according to the Tribune-Star this morning, he was diagnosed with a mild concussion and maybe a broken collarbone. Having had both of those injuryies, nothing too much to worry about there for a tough guy race car driver. You don't drive one of those things without getting shook up. Glad he wasn't hurt seriously, though. My idea of entertainment doesn't include life threatening injuries.

In between the races, we went to a couple of museums to see more race cars, railroads and some Terre Haute history. Plus there were vintage cars at the racetrack both nights courtesy of the Midwest Oldtimers Vintage Race Car Club. Sunday we stopped at the VW place in Effingham and toured their museum. I bought some parts to get moving on my project. Cold weather is coming soon and I want to make a little headway prior to that.

This was the first time I'd been to a race track in a couple of years and these were great races to see. Cuzzin Ricky and I are already making plans for our next trip. Like I mentioned in the last post, it's great to be able to have the time to do things like this. Also great that the Missus is willing to hold down the fort while I'm out traipsing around. I took a bunch of photos. I'll get a few more up in the next few days.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Old Guy Thoughts

Amen to that, brother

Both photos from here
This could've been brother John and I. We talked about it. Just didn't get the chance.

I've been doing a little ruminating lately and have come up with a few observations:

 Like the old guy sitting on the BSA, I worked hard and saved my money and now I can afford at least a few things that only young people enjoy. Since I was a school teacher, getting rich never was part of the equation, but thanks in part to the efforts of the unions I belonged to, I'm going to be OK. Something to think about in the upcoming election. I've never really been too political in the past but I'm bothered by much of what has gone on in Indiana and at the federal level the last couple of years. Just make sure you vote.

I received my last Lindsay catalog the other day. Lindsay is retiring and there will be no more of his great technical books after the end of February. I'm probably a typical customer of his. His books appeal to the thinker/dreamer/tinkerer/builder kind of guy. He makes some observations in this catalog that are along the same line I've been thinking about - must be the retirement thing. It seems the mailing list has shrunk some due to the passing on of some of his customers. Much of the clientele apparently consists of old guys working down the basement/garage/barn on projects they always wanted to pursue but never had the time until they retired. Or they're making something for the grandkids from 75 year old plans. Or they're some duffer who can no longer get out to the shop but is still interested in learning something new. Guys looking for an alternative to vegging out in front of the tube even though they were the first generation to be brought up with a television (maybe since they've been around it the longest, they've seen what a mind killer it is). Since this is his last catalog he editorializes a little more than usual and takes a shot at the dumbasses and weak sisters of the world. He offers some solid advice but in this case it's a little like preaching to the choir:

"Life should be a series of accomplishments, an endless series, if not home runs, at least of base hits. But I know many people who stand at the plate and strike out  every time because their too lazy or too cowardly to pick up the bat and swing!"
"The world truly needs more people with energy who would rather learn, build, create, and tinker than watch the ol' one-eye monster: television (or these days interactive telvision called the internet.) Predictable, politically correct people are safe, but the are also very boring. So forget mowing the lawn. Nuts to washing the car. Get out there and build!"
If you're interested in getting a few of his books, I'd be getting after it. I'm definitely going to .

The semester is half over at the community college where I'm now employed. I gave a mid-term exam the other night to one of the classes. I was a little surprised by the results. I thought the test was going to be too easy but apparently not. Even though they're in college, for a few their study habits leave much to be desired. Probably not the kind who will mourn the retirement of Lindsay - just not really prepared for the life of a scholar. It's a shame, that. The college seems to recognize that a certain percentage of their clientele is made up of students who for whatever reason are going to find college difficult and offers them lots of help. I'm not being judgemental here - just an observation as I settle in on the new job.

Unlike some of the college students, even though my retirement was precipitated by a heart attack, I now am starting a new phase of my life in a relatively good position. This is essentially a rebirth - you can never get a do-over - but I can start over with a lot of things. I've got the diet and exercise thing in place. I'm looking into some meditative practice. I was lucky enough to fall into the perfect part-time job that gets me out among people a little and gives me a little coin to throw at my projects. All things considered, life is good. 

So now that the world is my oyster, I'd like to make the most of it.The big question, knowing that I'm a lot closer to the end than the beginning, how should I do that? Everyone has their own interpretation and outlook on life. For Lindsay, maybe it's spending more time on his photography/foundry/homebrewed ale. For me? Motorcycles, hotrods, boxing, travel, woodworking, photography, reading, gardening, and of course the grandkids. And a change in my mindset to be able to relax and actually enjoy all of those things. It's too late for me to set the world on fire. Hell, it's too late to even light the match anymore. But that's OK. It's not like I haven't done anything up to this point in my life. The bucket list is pretty short. A lot shorter than the to-do list but I'm not going to go to my grave worrying about insignificant crap written on a piece of paper stuck to the refrigerator, though.  Looks like maybe the first thing I need to do is put a little effort into finding the middle path. Somewhere between too much geriatric hooliganism and worrying about mowing the lawn. Regardless of how any of us spend our last few days/years/decades, as Mose Allison reminds us, "you can rest assured, the earth wants you".

Let's get out there and build, people!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bike Stuff

Photo from here
Geriatric Hooliganism - I like the sound of that.

Photo from here
Maybe on something like this. This one's got a whole different look to it. Four individual high pipes, flat slab seat, nothing on it but the essentials. I wouldn't start with a four cylinder if I was going to make a scrambler but it's no larger than many of the "adventure" bikes they sell now. Probably weighs less as well. I'd like to hear what it sounds like, myself. And maybe do a couple of laps around the barn. Probably have to put some plywood over the kitchen windows first and plan on hitting rocks with the mower all next summer. Might be worth it though. Coincidentally, The Missus walked by while I was typing this up and took note of the bike. She said it looked like something I would build - loud and fast. Might be on the right track here.

Pretty nice weather over the weekend. Nice enough that I got the porch finished up, the air conditioner covers put on, finished the workbench and repaired my sander. On a tear here now, by golly. Plus, Surly came down and gave me a hand moving some furniture around for the Missus. Moving the couch and chairs isn't too tough but the television is a monster. It's one of the last of the old fashioned type. It's got a screen that's just a little smaller than the old Y&W Drive-In I used to go to way back when and weighs about two pounds less than a switch engine. We only had to move it about 15 feet but having a little help meant I could do something the next day as well. Plus, Surly was kind enough to bring some co-ax with him to help with the move.

I found a fork leg on eBay for the 900 so I can mount up a brake caliper on both sides of the front end. As soon as that gets here I'll get going on that project again. In the meantime I'll get the new switch installed on the table saw and see what I need to be ordering in for the VW. It definitely needs some tires. One of the front tires has a slow leak which makes it a pain in the ass to move around. It wasn't too bad when the car was at school. I had an air line next to the car and plenty of muscle available if I needed to move it around. Since I don't have a compressor in the barn, and stock size tires are hard to come by, and I've already got a pair of wheels painted up and ready to go, maybe I should start there. Maybe Cuzzin Ricky and I should take a road trip to Mid-America Motorworks. Take the truck and pick up some tires, a few other parts and check out the museum there for a little inspiration. Not that I need much. Since I'm getting caught up around the shack, I'm itching to get back on a couple of the fun ones.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Makin' Plans

Photo From Here
Time to start making travel plans, I'm thinking. I got my first scheduled pension check this week and between it and the part-time job, I should be able to put a little money away for travel. The Traveling Pirate sent me a link to a local travel agent a while back. On their home page they feature a 17 day tour that looks like it would be about what our foursome would want. Start in London, then Paris, Florence, Rome, Vienna, and others. I'll never be wealthy enough to travel to all the places I'd like to, but this trip would get me to most of the spots in Europe that I want to see. Still a lot of the world left over, but that's just how it is. I still need to see four more states here at home before I've got all fifty under my belt. If I play my cards right and watch my health, I should be able to get all fifty states and a trip to Europe in, God willing and the creek don't rise. I'm getting too old to postpone it for long, though.

I'm planning on working around the shack a little this weekend - finish the railing on the front porch, finish the workbench and a little lawn and garden stuff.  I'm itching to get a little done on the 900 and the VW. If it wasn't for the fact that I want to go to Europe, I'd be checking out the new Honda NC700X instead of putting much effort into the old 900. There's a write-up in the current Cycle World about it. It's quite the bike. $7,000 and 70 miles per gallon. Apparently, Honda noticed who wasn't buying motorcycles and designed a bike for them. Them being new riders and guys like me. Nowadays a 700 cc motorcycle is a middleweight but when I started riding, other than the big Harleys, nothing was bigger than a 750 cc. The big Brit bikes were mostly 500 and 650 cc's. Honda's biggest was the 450 "Black Bomber" with the 750 coming out a few years after that. Kawasaki fired back with the 900 and things have been escalating ever since. The Gold Wing is 1800 cc and 1000 pounds. Most big touring rigs and baggers are all about the 1800 cc mark and 10 dollars per cc. I don't know about you, but knowing that a new 600 has 100 horsepower, why would I need a bike three times as large and at least twice as expensive? Buy yourself the new Honda NC700X instead of the Goldwing and you'll have enough money left over to tour Europe on a motorcycle instead of the bus with the blue hairs. It's a shame I have to do an "either/or" here. Why couldn't I have been born rich instead of good looking?

While I'm talking investments, if you're into the traditional hot rod/motorcycle scene at all, you might be interested in Autocult magazine. They're looking for a little help getting issue number two out the door and you can help them out a little at the link. The main man on this project was also responsible for Garage magazine. I had a subscription to that one but it faded away. Not sure what happened but I'm relatively certain it had something to do with the magazine's affiliation with Jesse James. They've got a ways to go on the pledges with only a week remaining on Kickstarter but you can get in for as cheap as a sawbuck.

You all have a good weekend. I'm going to try and  get some things done so I can make travel plans and build motorcycles.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One Hunnert

I got my cholesterol checked this morning for the first time since I changed my diet and I've been on the statin. One hundred even. How 'bout them apples? That's cutting it in half from what it was. This was just the little quicky test for the old farts at the local library so I don't know all the details as far as HDL/LDL or triglycerides, but who gives a shit if it's only 100. They give the test every month, so I'm planning on going next month again to make sure this wasn't a fluke or a cruel joke of some kind but even if the test is off by 50 points, I'm still kicking ass!

I made an appointment right after that to see a new doctor, also. I want to get a good physical, flu shot, etc. to make sure something else isn't lurking in the shadows somewhere. Hopefully, the new doc and I will be philosophically compatible. I'm trying an osteopath this time. From the little I know about it, they seem to be more prevention/holostically oriented. I don't need another pill pusher in a white coat.

Put a smile on your face, go for a walk and eat some nuts and berries. Looks like that might be the answer.

Corn Picking & Woodworking

The farmer showed up on Saturday to pick the corn. My front yard is actually about a half acre of grass and five acres of corn field. Next year it'll be soybeans but I prefer the seclusion and the quiet you get with the corn. Mr. Farmer is getting along in years, so I don't know how much longer he's planning on farming. The Missus was talking the other day about fencing in one side of the lane or the other and maybe getting a beef cow or two. There's definitely a market for grass fed beef. Probably wouldn't be too hard to find someone who would take a share or two of an Angus or Dexter. I have a photo taken here from close to 100 years ago showing a guy milking a cow. Pretty cool picture actually - I should probably scan it in and post it. Anyway, the cow he's milking looks to be a Kerry. I'm not real hip to old breeds of cattle but it would be cool to have the same breed again. However, I'm not about to chase Mr. Farmer off. He's a first class tenant and it's nice having him around. It would be nice to have a little livestock before I get much older, though.

I worked on my woodworking bench yesterday. I had to change the design a little to accommodate the vise but no real problem there. I still have to fasten down the top and I'm planning on some type of shelf down below or something underneath along one side to store my power tools where they'll be handy. Like the workbench, I assemble most things with screws rather than nails. I keep a 3/16" bit in a corded drill all the time to make a hole in the outer piece to be fastened together and then I use the cordless drill to run the screws in. Those, plus a palm sander and a saber saw, are probably about all I really need to keep handy. I don't want to weigh the bench down to the point I can't move it easily if I need to have access to the back side. After I get the storage thing worked out, I think the bench should serve my needs nicely. It's not a fancy Veritas but it's not fourteen hundred bucks, either. More like fifty. The top isn't hard maple but if I want to drill some holes in the top for fixturing parts, it'll be no big deal in the fifteen dollar piece of particleboard. When you think like a welder, you approach things a little differently than a woodworker. Welders tack pieces to the table all the time and then cut or grind them off when no longer needed and the table's good as new again. The fancy woodworking benches have all those holes for stops and dogs to hold things in position or a guy will have another table for assembly work. I'll just screw things down to the sacrificial particleboard and swap it out when it gets too bad.

I've still got a bunch of things I want to finish up outside before the weather gets cold. I'll keep plugging away and see how far I get. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy all of this beautiful weather.