Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review

Nothing says Happy New Year like a 40 year old motorcycle from a now defunct manufacturer.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" Pretty much sums up my year and probably the same for many other people this year. In the worst column was the passing of my brother and my heart attack. In the best column was the heart attack. Having a heart attack is no fun but in my case it only required a few days in the hospital and some rehab. It had an effect on friends and family I don't wish to discount but in the big picture it led to some pretty good things. I retired from the high school, I got a kick-ass job at the college, it got me to relax a little and rethink my priorities, I feel better than I have in a couple of years, and I'm getting things done. My things. Things like electricity in the new barn and some work on the VW. I managed to reach my goal of reading 50 books - in fact I got 52. The heart attack was good for that too. Made the time spent in the recliner a little more productive. All in all, a pretty good year.

Resolutions for the new year? Like most people in America, I could stand to lose a couple of pounds. I got down to within five of where I wanted to be and then put five on between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so now I'm looking at ten. I can shed those, though. I just need to stay away from the sweets. The vegan thing has the rest of the diet in pretty solid shape.

As far as any other resolutions, not much necessary - depending upon who you ask, of course. I just need to remember the lessons from rehab about stress reduction and I should be OK. Live in the moment, don't overload the schedule, when things happen that are out of my control, take a few deep breaths and get things in perspective. And to reinforce those lessons, the Missus got me a DVD about stress for Christmas. It's from National Geographic. Pretty scary stuff there. The baboons in the DVD and I have a lot in common (insert your own joke here). However, as long as I can remember to use the stress management techniques, I should be in good shape for awhile. I'm still a work in progress but at least there is progress.

My "bucket list" is pretty short now. I've been to 46 out of 50 states. I'd like to add at least two more in the upcoming year and eventually get to all 50. I also want to go back to Europe. Everything else is pretty easily accomplished. No more running marathons or 500 mile bicycle trips. I want to hit the Peoria TT and do "The Hall of Fame Tour". Get out to the races with Cuzzin Ricky a few times (We finished off the season with a trip to Fort Wayne to watch the midget races over the weekend). Maybe get to Bonneville, depending on the school schedule. A little more time in the garden, finish some projects and try not to forget what's really important in life. Nothing earth shattering here. Just live the simple life with the family and play with the toys.

Best wishes to all of you for a prosperous and healthy 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stopped Dreamin' - Started Workin'

Finally getting up off my arse and getting serious about the 900 project. I ordered some tubing so I can make a Superbike style swingarm bridge. The one in the top photo is bracing applied to a stock swingarm - pretty discrete but yet effectively trusses the swingarm. The bottom one is a whole new swingarm with bottom bracing that is much more noticeable but since it's made out of aluminum, it's probably not any more effective than the top one. That didn't stop Eddie Lawson from riding the wheels off the thing, however. I got a chance to see him race on several occasions. That dude was a real racer. And a gentleman, too. Surly and I were at Road America and we wanted to get his autograph. Surly was pretty young but Lawson took the time to not only thank us for coming out but thanked Surly for asking for the autograph. 

When racers started making structural components out of aluminum, they mostly just duplicated the steel designs in an effort to shed weight. However, aluminum is lighter but the modulus of elasticity is such that you have to use almost three times as much to keep the stiffness  If you look at a current big displacement motorcycle with an aluminum swingarm, they're big. Likewise the aluminum wraparound frame spars. I'm planning on running a bigger tire than stock in the rear on mine but the bridge will be more for looks than performance. The swingarm is already made from 4130 rectangular tubing but some more chrome-moly hanging off the bottom will make it mo' better still.

I also ordered up some rod ends for a rear brake stay and some exhaust tubing. I made up a pipe for it out of aluminum but I'm not real happy with it. The new one will just be 2-1/2" straight pipe. That is, it'll be bent to get where it needs to be but no tapered cone. I'll rig up some type of silencing insert for it so it's not too obnoxious. The web site says the cheap shipping takes close to two weeks, so it'll probably show up about the time vacation's over but that's OK. I'm moving forward here anyway. 

In the meantime, I'm starting to work on the front end, as well as knocking around on some other miscellaneous jobs around the shack. I started some pepper seeds the other day. I'm going to do a little indoor vegetable gardening. Nothing fancy. A little shelf by a window with some supplemental lighting. I'd like to have a greenhouse but can't see that happening - too many irons in the fire as it is.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Still Thinking Instead of Working

I like the color of this one, along with the really clean lines. My '71 Olds Cutlass was pretty close to this color. The metallic brown/bronze color seems to be making a comeback. I've seen some new cars with similar colors lately - a Jeep that looked especially nice shining in the sun light, for one. I'm leaning in this direction for the 900. I was thinking metallic bronze with gold pinstripes but looking at the white on this one, that might be the way to go.
Both Photos From Here
I'm not sure what this is, my knowledge of sports cars is pretty limited, but it's an all aluminum body. I wish I had the talent to knock one of these out. If I get busy and clean up a bunch of my other projects, I might live long enough to build my dream car. There was an article in Hot Rod magazine a couple of years back and a guy built just about exactly what I would do given the time and the money. It was an open wheeled roadster design with aluminum skin. He even took his to Bonneville. My kind of guy.

Photo From Here
I am probably good enough to hammer out a fairing like this. I made one for my road racer a few years back but it didn't follow the contour of the engine like this one. Now that I'm getting the shop set up at home I should be able to have a nice spot dedicated to doing sheet metal work. I really enjoy doing the sheet metal. Just a shame it takes so long to master the skills. Of course, the difficulty and time spent learning something like this is what makes it worthwhile but that only happens by shutting off the computer and actually going to work.

I did do a little welding on the snowblower the other day, so I have ventured out into the shop. It's been kind of cold and windy the last few days and I haven't really felt like spending a lot of time out there, plus we had a couple days of Christmas festivities thrown in. Just felt good to relax. I do need to start getting after it if I'm going to have anything running come spring, however. All in good time. I'm still trying to master the lessons of stress reduction they ran by me during rehab. Old habits die hard. The fact that it's 68 inside and 28 outside kind of compounds the difficulty of deciding what to do as well. Sit in front of the fireplace with a good book, or go out to the shop where everything I touch is freezing cold? Seems like a no-brainer, unless I actually want to get something done. If nothing else, I'll get out there and work on the clean up. I can do that with gloves on.

I added another link in the education blog list the other day, by the way. It's from Duke University's Student Shop as sent to me by my buddy Kevin. I haven't checked it out real thoroughly yet, but looks like a lot of good how to/safety stuff available there. He also dropped a few books off for me to read. I'm working on one of them now that is definitely a must read for a guy like me who is both an educator and a maker of things. I'll have a post on it when I finish it up. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Time to Rejoice

Merry Christmas Everyone

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. 

If you tuned in yesterday, you noticed I had to cut short the post. Seems my satellite link wasn't working properly.  If I was able to log on at all, it would drop out after a couple of minutes, hence the reason for the photo of a stack of pancakes rather than a seasonal photo of some sort. All seems to be in order in cyberspace this morning, though.

I had this photo already cued up for a post of an entirely different sort but went with it in order to at least get the Christmas wishes out to everyone. But in this season of giving thanks, gathering together with our loved ones while remembering those who are absent, and, of course, the exchange of gifts, a big stack of vegan pancakes has taken on a much more significant meaning for me this year. I've made some big changes in my lifestyle this past year and I seem to be enjoying the Christmas holiday much more than I have in quite a few years. Most probably, this is a result of less stress and more free time, therefore enabling a more thoughtful approach to the true meaning of the holiday. 

If you've ever seen the movie Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart, he recalls the advice his mother gave him:

"Elwood she said, she always called me Elwood. If you want to get ahead in this world, you have to be either oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart, I recommend pleasant."

With everything that has gone on this year, it seems as if we're all suffering to one extent or another a "death from a thousand cuts" to our psyches. So at this the Holiest time of year, I too, like Elwood, recommend and wish you pleasant.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Just The Facts, Ma'am

I got the mail the other day and among the regular junk, bills, magazines and Christmas cards was an envelope from my new Horace Mann agents. Inside was a warm Christmas greeting and a copy of the 21st Century Retirement. This little paper is printed four times per year and has information, as you would expect, pertaining to retirement issues for those of us who have investments with the firm of Horace Mann.

One of the articles this time is on student loans and Social Security benefits. My first thought was WTF? Student loans and Social Security? But then I remembered reading other articles about people my age helping out children and grandchildren with college expenses by co-signing for student loans. The gist of the thing is that Social Security can put a brick on your check if you've fallen behind on your Federal student loan. As much as it pains me to say it, I guess that's fair. Also they won't do it if your monthly check is $750 or less.

The real kicker to this is not that they want to be repaid and will take it out of your Social Security check if need be. When you sign a contract agreeing to pay the money back, you need to pay the money back. The real kicker is the dollar figure they threw out. According to the article, Americans owe $870 billion in student loans. Americans 60 and older owe $36 billion of that total amount. I looked up the census figures from 2010 and came up with this:

Total population:   308,746,000
Population 60+:      57,085,000
Population 0-19:     83,267,000
Population 20-59: 168,394,000

If Americans 60 and older owe $36 billion and there are roughly 57 million of us, that works out to $630.00 each, if the cost were distributed evenly across the old fart spectrum. Since neither the Missus or I have a student loan, that means someone else is going to have to pick up the $1200.00 slack.

If the age group infants to 19 have no student loans, that means the remaining group, age 20-59 owes a total of $834 billion. If that was divided evenly, every man-jack one of them would owe $4,952.67

These numbers are just astounding. More outstanding student loan debt than credit card or car loans. I'm not sure what these numbers are but I would think we're talking billions here as well. K-12 schooling costs $600 billion per year. That works out to $2,000 per person if everyone from infant to geezer paid taxes. Half the people don't, so the burden doubles for the rest of us. So you've got the collective student loan debt, credit card debt, mortgage debt and then the national debt, which pales all the rest in comparison, and I read the other day that about 70% of  Americans now take more money out of the tax system than pay into it.

I can't see how this is going to go on for much longer. College education for the general population is going to become a thing of the past. When you start taking Grandma's Social Security check away due to college loans, times are definitely hard. You know if Grandma had the money, she'd pay the loan back. Since she doesn't have the money, she's really going to be hurting when they put the brick on the SS check.

The world didn't come to an end today but life as we know it in this country will be coming to an end if we can't figure out a way to get an educated populace without bankrupting Grandma or saddling young people with ridiculous debt loads. Personal responsibility will have to be making a comeback but I don't see that happening any time soon. It's going to be a hard sell if 70% of the population is on the dole to one extent or another - especially if they're not educated. Just a little cheery thought to brighten your holiday season.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Clean Up Progress

Storage bins - need to pick up a few more while they're on sale

TIG filler rod containers. Left over pipe with some  new caps.  Four bucks each.

Lights in the sandblaster cabinet. If I ever get the rest of the cleaning done, I'll be ready to  blast.

It's been awhile since I've posted any photos of projects - not like I haven't been doing anything, just that the broom and shovel work's not too photogenic. However, in my never ending quest to clean up my junk, I bought a few storage bins and made up a strap hanger for them. I made some storage containers for my TIG/gas welding filler rod and I finished the lights on the sandblaster. Next up a few more storage bins, a few more filler rod containers, and finish the vacuum bucket that goes with the sandblaster dust control system. Oh yeah, and a rack for the welding bench to hold the filler rod containers. Nothing tricky here, just one more thing that needs to get done that will make doing the things I want to do a lot easier/fun.

I'm going to take a look at the snowblower today. The weatherman's calling for some nasty weather heading our way. We're already getting some rain with big wind gusts. If it changes to snow like they're predicting, we could be in for some excitement. Freezing rain and big wind means power outages when you live in the country. After it turns to snow, you're talking drifts and road closures. I've got plenty of water for drinking and toilet flushing, the pantry's full, flashlights have fresh batteries, plenty of wood for the fireplace, and my recliner's fixed. Let it snow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Phone Calls

First, let me say that Frazz is my favorite cartoon and one of the things I miss most about no longer getting the Chicago Tribune. Frazz works in a school, he runs, cycles, and has a most interesting viewpoint on life. You can learn a lot from the funny papers. Second, I wonder how much productive time is lost every year by all the dumb asses making unsolicited phone calls. We've gotten several calls recently at the shack from some outfit trying to sell us new windows. The Missus has us on the "do not call list" and she already called the AG about these knuckleheads. Third, I've received a few calls lately on my cell that I have no idea who they were from or what they wanted. There are only about six people I've given my number to, so usually it's somewhat important if it rings. When I get to be king every phone will have a self destruct device embedded in it that can be triggered from the other end of the line. You call me with some nonsense, boom, time for a new phone and you'll be standing there smoking with your hair looking like Don King and your face all covered in powder residue - just like in the cartoons.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guzzi Day

Photo From Here
That's the stuff right there. Good looking Guzzi. Nice and clean. Not sure why but I really like the paint job. Everything is at it should be, I guess.

Photo From Here
Nothing wrong with this one either. It does have the little high intensity headlight peeking through the fairing in the front. Not exactly the classic look but plenty of room to paint a number on the front that way.

This one is taken from the Guzzi LeMans II blog. Only problem being the blog is in French. Appears to be a documentation of a rebuild. Check it out if you want to see what makes these things tick.

The photo's from here but if you want to find it you'll have to dig way back. This one has been languishing in the Shop Teacher Bob archives for quite a while. That pipe is something to be admired.

Photo From Here
Here's the added touch of some fine German engineering. This one's been fitted with a blower. That's something you don't see every day, Chauncey. I'd like to ride this one. Gotta be a blast.

So there you have some nice shots of an Italian motorcycle marque you rarely ever see in the States. That may change in the future with the change in ownership of the company. It's going to be tough establishing a dealer network to sell fairly expensive motorcycles that are under powered by Japanese standards. They've got a couple of new models coming out but I haven't seen an in depth road test on any of them yet. I still want one, regardless. 

In the meantime, I'm on vacation for a month - like a real retired guy! Planning on getting some things done, maybe do a little traveling, a little relaxing, catch up on some reading. 

Vacation didn't start out too well on Friday with the terrible news of the school shooting. I already had this post written up before hearing the news. Obviously all the Moto Guzzi's in the world mean nothing compared to the lives of those little children. All I could think of when I heard the news was the grandson's Christmas program at his school the Missus and I attended just two days prior to that. Same age group. I'm sure the same beautiful faces full of hope and promise. I can't imagine how anyone could do that to those innocent little ones. My heart goes out to all the family and the first responders. I can't imagine the pain those people are experiencing and will continue to experience in the future. What a terrible, terrible tragedy.

Remember the reason for the season and hold your loved ones close. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wanna Teach?, Part Two

On the same day I wrote the "Wanna Teach?" post, the Wall Street journal had an op-ed piece by Randi Weingarten. Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers of which I was a member back in the days of Albert Shanker's presidency. I was also a member of the National Education Association for as many years. In the interest of full disclosure, I always preferred the AFT to the NEA. The AFT was, and I'm assuming it still is, an AFL-CIO affiliate which was more appealing to me with my industrial background.

Ms Weingarten's piece in the Journal calls for a "bar exam" for all teachers in order for them to become licensed, just like lawyers must do. It's a simple but brilliant idea, especially since it comes from a teacher's union and because it's one of the few reform ideas that actually makes sense. If you were to allow anyone with a Bachelors degree and a "B" average teach school, like the Sate of Indiana is calling for, then give them the exam and see what happens. However, would you grandfather in all teachers currently working? They currently have a board certification for teachers but not in all disciplines and it's not something you normally would volunteer for unless you were real sure of the outcome due to the work involved. And who wants to say they flunked their board certification test? If everyone currently teaching had to take the new exam, it would be very interesting to see the pass/fail percentage. My initial thoughts on the new test would be everyone desiring to and currently teaching takes the test. Those currently teaching who don't pass the test get a couple of years to improve and then retest. Maybe even a retest every ten years for license renewal as long as it's not cost prohibitive. I'd need to think about this a little more before jumping on that bandwagon, but there is nothing wrong with upgrading the professionalism of the teaching trade, especially if it leads to improved salaries, working conditions and educational outcomes.

I got a comment on the previous "Wanna Teach" post by tvi and he questioned the money teachers would receive under the new plan. It would be my guess that the people applying for teaching positions just on their Bachelors degree would be those who are recent graduates who can't find work and need to start paying off their student loans or perhaps someone who leaves industry after a stint of twenty years or so. Either way, to keep these people in the classroom when their starting pay is going to be less than $30K per year is not going to be easy. The young ones will spin their wheels in the classroom until a job in their field comes along and the older ones will find that it's a lot tougher than anticipated for the meager compensation received and will go back to industry or retire. There will be exceptions. Some will stay the course. Probably, either the real slugs or the real dedicated ones. Most, however, will leave before they even get the experience needed to become a good teacher, let alone an excellent teacher. With all the turnover, the schools never have to pay top dollar and the state keeps the money the teachers invested in the pension fund before they were vested. The students suffer from the constant stream of inexperienced teachers but the politicians can boast of the reforms they implemented and the extra money that should go to the pension fund they can piss away on something else. Since the states have cut education funds, the schools will find it easier to balance their budgets but the educational outcomes won't improve. Little Johnny still won't be able to diagram a sentence or make change for a dollar.

However, if you combined the AFT teaching examination with the "B" or better student, then you would be on to something. I'm guessing a "B" student would be in at least the top 25% of his class, so you're not going to get any slugs, at least academically. And if they are willing and able to pass the teaching exam, you can be fairly certain they've got the hustle and the ability required. So if they are smart and able to do the job, take the 20 year pay scale school corporations typically use and drop the bottom ten years. Start them on year number eleven and watch and see how things improve. Education reform is easy if you ask the right people and pay an attractive wage. (BTW, Live Long and Prosper has a nice take on the Indiana part of this. Sort of a WTF were you guys thinking viewpoint)

And I read in the paper where former State Superintendent of Education, Tony Bennett is soon to be employed in a similar position in Florida. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of that besides him working on his tan. Especially if you read this in the Washington Post.

On a related educational note, I checked back a few posts and I had recieved a comment from Mike Roest recommending a blog written by his shop teacher friend, Ryan. I checked out the blog and his friend is indeed a shop teacher - metal working, welding, rides a motorcycle (not sure that's a requirement but definitely a common thread) and doing lots of cool things in the classroom. Plus he's from Canada. Not we've got international representation here at Shop Teacher Bob's Tech Ed Clearing House. I added the link to the education sidebar - check him out, he's doing good things. Thanks to Mike for reading and the recommendation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Photo's & Finals

Photo From Here
Cool shot - I need to get into the darkroom one of these days. And I need to get out and shoot some film. Maybe take the train and do another day in the City. Something to get the creative juices flowing a little and to just have some fun. Some street photography with the little rangefinder would be fun. Maybe a day out with the 4x5 just to slow things down a bit. Or better yet, a day of each.

I did get out and see some cool rock and roll photos over the weekend at the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. There were about 80 photographs total, most of those in Black and White, always my first choice. About half the photos were of female performers - great shots of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and other lesser known but still important artists. Most of the shots were taken in the 80's in Ohio. And if it's the 80's, then a picture or two of Devo in the yellow jumpsuits is de rigueur. No plastic flower pots on their heads, though. Nice display and no admission charge - hard to beat that.

And if you want to see more rock and roll photographs without even leaving the house, Time magazine has some they posted Nov. 27th at Light Box in celebration of what would have been Jimi's 70th.

This is final exam week at the college. I finish this week and I've got my first semester as an adjunct faculty under my belt. Then I get a month off. That's nothing but sweet. I don't have much planned for the time off other than working on the projects and some things around the shack. Haven't had much new progress to post lately but that's OK. It'll happen. I did get some cleaning/organizing done in the shop. It won't be too much longer and I'll have things where I want them. I did make it in to Harbor Freight to pick up a couple of things the other day. You can tell I'm getting old, though. There's a Hooter's right next to the Harbor Freight and even though I've been to Harbor Freight dozens of times, I've never set foot in the Hooters. Apparently the attraction of cheap tools is just too powerful for me. Kind of like kryptonite.

Rock on!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Inside Joke

So this duck walks into the drugstore ...........

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wanna Teach?

The Missus e-mailed this to me the other day to get my take on it. Apparently someone had posted it on Facebook and was soliciting the pro/con viewpoint on the quote. With what little I know of Mr. Mencken, I'd be willing to bet that he wasn't endorsing this viewpoint but rather he was pointing out that this is the unfortunate outcome as education was practiced at the time. Or right now, as far as that goes. If the ultimate goal is to pass an English and math exam, that pretty much breeds a standard citizenry. However, Indiana's latest response to upgrading education is to allow anyone to become a teacher at the middle or high school level without any training other than a Bachelor's degree and passing a test in your choosen area of expertise.

At this point I'm sure you're all thinking, here it comes again. But wait, I actually started my career just like that. I was attending college classes and was pretty close to graduating when my teacher at the college said they were looking for a welding teacher at the high school where he was an administrator. Long story short, I started teaching without a degree at all, but at that time it was possible to get a vocational license on nothing more than your work experience. You did have to attend "clock hour" classes for teaching methods. In fact, I drove about 75 miles one way to attend one after school on my very first day as a classroom teacher. I left the house about 6:30 in the morning and didn't get home until about 11:30 that night. Tough way to start the new job but I was young. And that was one of the best things I had going for me. Energy that comes with youth. Plus, my first real job out of high school prior to teaching, I had the good fortune to go to work for a craftsman of the highest order who instilled in me the value of good work. When it says in the Yellow Page ad that it's "A Quality Shop of Master Craftsmen" and the boss shows the ad to you before hiring you, it was pretty obvious how he stood on the subject. The other thing was the fact that when I started teaching I was at the end of a long hallway in the school and that hallway was filled with great shop teachers who were kind enough to take me under their collective wing and see to it that I got off to a good start.

Once again this goes back to pride in your work as well as pride in your workplace/school on both my part and theirs. If I was going to be a knucklehead, they would have cut me loose in a heartbeat. No way they were going to let me screw up their department and the reputation it had. Instead, even though I was completely green, I had the good sense to pay attention to what these guys told me and I learned early on that if I wanted to know about creating lesson plans, classroom management or any other thing that might arise, I could go to Ray, or Skip, or Don, or Matt, or Harold and these guys would set me straight. A whole department full of Crackerjacks. A rare thing but a damn fortunate one for me. I should also mention that I had a great principal as well. Good leadership is essential for a new hire. Even with all of the positives, the first couple of years in the classroom were a lot of work. They were fun, but there was no slacking off. Often times I was only just one day ahead of my students. It takes a while to generate 185 days worth of decent lesson plans.

Will the new system work? I don't think it will make much difference in the long haul. Half of all new teachers pack it in within five years as it is. If that rare individual walks in and has the energy to jump through all the new hoops the state requires, plus has the gift to stand in front of a class of 25 or 30 young people and is able to effectively make that transfer of knowledge for 185 days, and spend a few hours every evening grading papers or preparing lessons, and reading in the newspapers or listening to the politicians downgrading what you do because you just went into it for the money, then I wish them all the best. Your children and my grandchildren deserve nothing less than the best. And after a few years, when there is no real noticeable change for the better in spite of all the reforms, they'll try something else. Hopefully, next time they'll get it right.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Under the Bean

The Missus and I took a bus trip to Chicago on Wednesday. Here's your's truly under the "Bean". I'm the guy on the left, right, top, and bottom. It was a beautiful day to be out and about. The premise was for the Missus to check out the Christkindlmarket. We did that - I had some hot mulled wine, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, and a little ginger bread. Pretty good deal for a vegan. A big hunk of bratwurst on the plate with the kraut and maybe a piece of pumpernickel would have made it a little tastier, even if not healthier. It was there for the asking along with a couple of other flavors of "wurst" but I resisted the temptation. Most of the rest of the day was spent at Macy's but I did a little side jaunt and made it to Millennium Park and hot lapped a few blocks close to Macy's so I could check out a few of the architectural gems like

The Sullivan Center. I can't imaging the work required to design, pattern, found, and install that chunk of cast iron. This has been around for more than a hundred years and still looks good. Every time I'm in the city and see some of these great old buildings, I'm just in awe. The new buildings make for an impressive skyline and looked great reflecting the setting sun as we were leaving but they just don't have the class that the old ones do. Many of the new buildings are great designs and technical marvels but as far as I'm concerned, they just don't measure up to the old masters. That's probably one of the reasons preservation of antiquities is so important. You need the comparison to keep innovating and to keep everyone honest. The Bean and the Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park are great pieces but when that modernist look was applied to Soldier Field, not so good. From the outside it looks like an alien spaceship crash landed on top of it. Granted, Shop Teacher Bob is probably not the most qualified architecture critic but some pretty heavy hitters think the same thing.

If you back up a hundred years or even a little farther back, you find some amazing things that were built. The Crystal Palace, Eiffel Tower, Grand Central Terminal and later the S.S. Normandie. The whole Industrial Revolution thing brought some huge changes in transportation, manufacturing, architecture and design - first Art Nouveau, and later, Art Deco. Those boys had it going on.

Maybe this is why the later stuff doesn't do it for me. This banner was hanging from the side of the Cultural Center, itself a beautiful late 1800's building. There has to be more to this story than meets the eye but I didn't have the time to scope it out. I do know that Louis Sullivan wasn't ordinary, nor was John L., or for that matter, the Fighting Sullivans. Maybe it's just a Sullivan thing. Regardless, it was a great day to celebrate the start of the Christmas season by spending a little quality time with the Missus and doing a little shopping without the madness of Black Friday.

Weeknd's here again, so enjoy.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I saw both of these at Motart. Always some nice photographs there. Sidecars and landspeed racers are what get my old heart pumping. I started thinking Bonneville again after talking to one of the guys at work. Never good when old racers get together and start talking squishband. 

That got me thinking about next year's vacation schedule. I haven't really been anywhere the last couple of summers. I'd like to go back to Mid-Ohio for Vintage days, I really need to get over to Peoria for the TT race and I'd like to check out the motorcycle hillclimb if they're still running one east of here. Of course, Bonneville is still on the bucket list, but if I can't make that this coming year, maybe an event of the East Coast Timing Association. They're running races in Ohio now, I believe. And if I'm going to Ohio, might want to consider Wauseon for the antique bikes. Ohio, being right next door to Pennsylvania, is on the way to the Checkered Flag Jalopy Showdown and I'd like to do the Hall of Fame tour out east - boxing, baseball, football, rock and roll. All that and never even cross the Mississippi, unless I can swing Bonneville. I've still got four more states to see before I get all fifty and I'll have to go west to get those in. Bonneville's within spittin' distance of Nevada. And if you're in Nevada, might just as well hit California. The Missus would like to spend a couple of nights aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach and I'd get a chance to see the giant redwoods. That would leave only Alaska and Hawaii left on the list to make fifty. I still need to leave time in there for a trip to Italy. And the National Motorcycle Museum in Iowa. Maybe hit that on the way to Bonneville and the Sprint Car Hall of Fame on the way back.

Obviously I'm never going to make all of those spots but dreaming of travel for me is almost as good as going. If I wouldn't have taken the college job, I'd have the time to travel to all of those places but without the job I'd be sittin' home twiddlin' my thumbs, anyway. I've got all winter to make plans. Maybe one trip east and one trip west. And if I'm real lucky, Europe. In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away on the clean up and the projects. 

PS. I added a couple of education links to the sidebar. They're not really shop teacher blogs but good if you're interested in education at all. And we all should be.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal the other day. It was reporting on an article coming out next month in the journal Heart. The article discussed the benefits/damage of excessive running on older athletes. While the focus was on runners, I would assume the results would be the same for an old guy who runs, cycles and boxes. The gist of the thing is that there can be too much of a good thing as we get older. Might explain some of my issues. I need to remember to read the full article when it comes out. I'm looking to fine tune my exercise program so I  might be able to incorporate some of the findings or substantiate some of my ideas with a more informed opinion.

There's a billboard right across the street from my old school stating that 28% of students drop out of high school. While having breakfast the other day with a former colleague, she stated that roughly the same number of students in Indiana are on free or reduced lunch. Just might explain a few things.

The fuzzy photo is one of the faculty at the college doing some "community service". Not the kind where you've been naughty and have to atone for it. Rather, this is the let's do something nice for the community because we can and it's good PR. Don't know where the world would be without shop teachers but I'd be willing to bet that 28% drop out number would be substantially higher and a lot fewer things would get built/fixed for churches, libraries, non-profits, and individuals in need. If you read the post the other day, who but a shop teacher would build prosthetic legs out of Toyota Corolla parts?

Since the weather was unseasonably warm over the weekend, I figured it would be a good time to hook up the wiring on the fog lights. Took a little longer than anticipated but it was a nice day to be outside puttzing around on something. I need to get them aimed as per the instructions yet but no biggie there.

I hit 50,000 visits here at the Shop Teacher Bob blog the other day. That's a pretty respectable number for the subject matter covered here. I try to post twice a week at a minimum and have done so quite diligently since 2008. Since I normally lose interest in things I tackle long before four years has gone by, I'm kind of proud of myself. I hope I've been able to draw attention to some of the great things my students and others in education have done. Plus, I get a chance to vent a little here. That takes a little load off the Missus - she's heard it all before. Thanks to all who've stopped by.

And speaking of venting, the same Wall Street Journal I opened with had an editorial about the real deficit we have in this country, not the much less but still outrageous figure that normally gets thrown around. Due to less than transparent financial reporting, it's way worse than what most anyone knows. Trillions of dollars worse. And in the NWI Times a couple of days later, I see an article saying that Indiana doesn't have any money for roads and bridges because the gas tax revenues are less than projected and they already spent all the money from leasing out the toll road. Another article said that because the government decided we needed to put ethanol in our tanks, food prices are and will continue to go up. Everything those knucklehead politicians touch turns to s**t. It's like they have the Midas touch only in reverse. Since they'll continue to meddle, don't look for things to improve any time soon. In fact, I'm thinking relatively high unemployment and deficit spending is going to be the new normal. What we've got now is what we're going to have until the bills come due and it gets worse. My advice in this is to pay off your debts and start looking at the seed catalogs.

Photo From Here
Just so I don't end on a sour note, here's a cool looking Guzzi Cafe bike. They've got a few more at their site. Nothing flashy, just simple motorcycles that speak of torque and handling. Lot to be said for a back to basics approach whether it's motorcycles or life.