Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year In Review

It was all good, simple as that.

Plus Column:                                                                    

Added the SV650 and my brother's BSA to the stable.

No issues on the medical front, I'm slowing down a little but still ambulatory. I've got a great part-time job, a roof over my head, I'm eating regular and I managed to read 58 books this past year. I'm blessed with friends and family that both love and tolerate me. I've got enough projects to last me at least 20 years and even though I didn't make a lot of progress on any of them last year, in the big picture that's OK. But I did scratch another item off the bucket list when I saw this:

Minus Column:
- 0 -

Yep, all good. Let's hope 2014 is the same.

Felice Anno Nuovo to one and all.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Ramblings

I'm getting back to my normal sleep patterns and have made it through the pile of newspapers, magazines and junk mail. Had a Christmas get together last evening with out of town folks and another small one tomorrow - sure glad I've still got a couple of weeks vacation left.

I did get a few things for Christmas to keep me occupied during the cold winter evenings.

A couple of jigsaw puzzles and a plastic model kit. My buddy with the Camaro bought me the model. I need to get a tube of glue and some metallic red paint and go to town. The model has a 409 with dual quads. Mine had a 327 with a single carb. Probably the first thing I need to do is get a model oak tree and a chainfall so I can drop the motor in. It used to be every car both of us owned ended up under the tree for an engine swap. We had to schedule our working hours around the weather but we could normally pull one out and have the other one in and running by the end of the same day. Or we'd jerk one out, get it rebuilt and drop it back in a week or two later, bumming rides to work or borrowing Mom's car in the meantime. I'll set up shop down the basement so I can paint and glue without stinking up the house and it'll be safe from the dog and cat.

They're not normally this docile. I might have to fence off an area around the card table to put the puzzles together, in fact.

Here's the tool boxes Surly made for his boys for Christmas. Nice work - all hand tool joinery and the painting of their initials and accents really make them look good. These will be around long after the boys have outgrown the plastic & electronic stuff Santa brought them. And since they hold tools, it's a good start for the boys to someday being craftsmen in their own right. Or if they choose a different path, at least being able to appreciate the work and the love that went into making them.

I'm going to try and organize my digital photos from my trip in the next day or so and get a couple of CD's made. I'll swap them off with my traveling companions and I can post up a few of the trip highlights. Since I shot a few rolls of black & white, I need to mix up some fresh chemicals and get my film developed and get to Menard's and pick up a few things while the 11% discount is going on. In fact, I should probably order the lathe bed extension for the new wood lathe while the 11% rebate is in effect. 

Lots and lots to do but it's all stuff I want to do now. And I'm having fun doing it. What could be better? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

European Jewels

Made it home from my whirlwind tour of Europe. Seem to be suffering from some jet lag but other than that, it's all systems go. It's great to be back home sleeping in my own bed and not living out of the suitcase, packing and unpacking nearly every day.

I went with two of my former colleagues from the high school plus the lady colleague's mother. We took the European Jewels Tour with Cosmos. We started in London, crossed the English Channel into France, then hit Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Paris and back to London for the flight back home. The tour was ten days in length plus a day coming and going. Obviously we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time but we spent two nights in London, Florence and Paris. In addition to the scheduled tour we had options to sign up for like a trip on the Rhine River and Lake Lucerne.

We did see the European Jewels: London Bridge and the Parliament, the canals of Amsterdam, the Alps, the Palace of the Medici's, the Basilica of Santa Croce and the interior of Brunelleschi's Dome in Florence. We saw castles and Christmas Markets out the wazoo, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and the Palace of Versailles. And the capper of the trip, the Eiffel Tower lit up at night in all its marvelous splendor.

Obviously I've got much to be thankful for this holiday season. I've completed a journey to Europe that had only been a dream for many a year. Fortunately, my health and finances allowed that dream to come to fruition. Mostly it was made possible, however, by a very loving and understanding wife who stayed home and literally kept the home fires burning while I was gone for almost two weeks traipsing around the Continent. Tomorrow I'll be blessed again with the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Hopefully the rest of you will be as richly blessed.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas Y'all. Made it home safely. I'll post up a few trip highlights after I get caught up.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Paris Eiffel Tower DP

You can poke my eyes out now, I've seen it all.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Lucerne, in the land of the Switzers. Next stop Paris.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


          The tomb of Michelangelo.

        I bow down before the master.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Looking for a retirement home with a nice view.  Munich seems nice.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

National Bill of Rights Day

Today is National Bill of Rights Day, celebrating the adoption into law of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It's rather short notice but you can go to the National Constitution Center and find some lesson plans if you're a teacher. Or you could go to My Bill of Rights and get yourself a wallet size card listing the Bill of Rights so you can be reminded of the rules the federal government is supposed to be following rather than what is currently happening. Regardless of your politics, you owe it to yourself and your country to be an informed citizen. A democratic republic requires as much to function as designed.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance: which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

I made it easy for you, take a minute to read it. Pay particular attention to Number Ten. That's the one everyone seems to forget about.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lucky Thirteen


Amstelveen y'all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Inside Joke Part Two

Photo From Here

and tells the druggist, "Gimme a ChapStick"

Monday, December 9, 2013

Let's Be Careful Out There


This is hanging up in my Grandpa’s shop.

My worst fear 

I saw this at Meet to Match by way of Handverker. Taking care of the fingers is always a good idea. I've known and/or worked with several people who have missing digits or parts there of. When I first started teaching, the machine shop instructor lost his thumb at the first knuckle in my shop while showing a student how to safely perform a task, ironically enough. I found the thumb under one of the welding machines and they sent the piece and the instructor to the hospital together. I had to perform similar body part retrieval with bits of fingers lost in a band saw, a shear and a log splitter over the years.

When I was in high school I worked part time for a farmer doing various chores around his place. Mostly fun stuff like cleaning the bull pen in the Spring, digging post holes or baling hay. He was a great guy to work for. His wife would bring us drinks and a snack out to the field for a break in the morning and then have a big dinner for us at the noon meal. This was always like a Sunday dinner meal. Pot roast and all the trimmings, including dessert or maybe fried chicken would be on the menu that day. No sandwiches while working for Floyd. After dinner, you'd rest up for a bit and then it was back to work. He was never in a hurry unless it was trying to get the hay in before the rain or something similar. Like most teenagers, I was pretty "rammy" and he was always telling me to slow it down a little, watch my hands, watch my feet, etc.

I was very fortunate to have the chance to work for him. I learned a lot about working safely, whether that was being around large animals or machinery. If you worked around farms back then, you personally knew someone who had had a run in with a corn picker, a PTO shaft or something that had sucked them in and spit them out. In the weld shops it's probably the hand grinder that causes most of the day to day grief. I've done a little hand to hand combat with those over the years myself and they'll give you a good scrubbing. You pinch a 9" grinding disk and business will definitely pick up.

Over the years I've found there are two kinds of people who get hurt in the shop. Those that are new to the trade and don't fully understand the dangers and those that have been around long enough to forget the dangers and get a little careless. Pretty much covers everyone.

Let's be extra careful this holiday season!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Toofus

I finally got my new tooth implant this morning. Only took six months and about ten trips to the dentist but I should be golden for a while now, at least in the dental department. Didn't stop at Harbor Freight or the Jaguar dealership this time by but did notice a few used Jags for sale at an outfit that specializes in foreign car repair. Good looking XJS on the lot. A V12 could be fun. Also, right next door to the Jaguar dealer is a Nissan dealer. The new 370Z is a fine looking little automobile.

Depending on options, they run between $30 to $43K. Not cheap, but a lot of sports car for the money. 

I've always had a hankering for a sports car of some sort. The E Type Jaguar was always the one when I was young. I'd still love to have one but then I'd have nothing left to dream about. Well maybe that Moto Guzzi that for some reason I have an irrational desire to own. I read a little blurb in the Wall Street Journal just yesterday about Clive Cussler owning a 1954 Jaguar XK120. Seems he had one that he bought new and later sold. Traded it for a Nash Rambler, actually. He found another XK120 nine years ago and bought it at the age of 71. I'm only 63, so I've got time yet - probably take me that long to get the VW out of the barn so I'll have a place to park it.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Only Jobs Left Are Mine!

Of course, there's a million of those left on the list. However, I worked on the TR3 door over the weekend. The temperatures had risen almost to my comfort zone and after completing the engine block the other day, this was the only thing pending for other people. I replaced the lip along the bottom and tacked it on along with a new piece on the inside bottom. I want to check it out on the car before I weld it up, so I'll drop it off and check the fit and then either bring it home or he can finish welding it. 

The landlord at the gym brought the clock he wants fixed to the gym on Saturday but I need to finish getting my woodshop in order before I see about that. He's in no hurry, so that will work out well for both of us. It's a nice looking old wooden cased clock that someone lost or took off the top section. He has a photograph of what it used to look like that was inside the clock, so I've got something to go by. It's rather ornate, so it'll be a stretch for my woodworking skills but I'd like to try it just to see what I can do - give me something to make on my new lathe. I'll try to work up a scale drawing this winter and figure out what type of wood it's made of and then have at it in the spring or summer after I get the rest of my tools set up.

It's supposed to be fairly warm for a few more days yet, so I'm going to try and get a little more done on the 900 swingarm. I did hit a lick on the VW the other day as well. Nothing big but something. I also got the snowblower out and started up. As you can see, I'm still using the shotgun approach to project completion but I'm moving forward again. I've only got a couple more nights of classes to teach and then I'll be on a month long vacation. Definitely looking forward to that. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gobble til You Wobble

Did myself another Turkey Trot this morning. My running buddy and I changed venues this year. This year we went south rather than north in support of a local man battling cancer. There was a real nice turnout for a first time run in a small community. I think I was the first male walker and second walker overall. Apparently there was a little confusion with the scoring. 

They started the walkers off in a separate wave about thirty seconds after the runners. Two women took off like they had pork chops tied to their asses and were being chased by wolves. They opened up a big lead on everyone and I worked my way through the pack and opened up a lead on everyone else. I passed the one gal about 1/4 of a mile from the end, so I'm pretty sure I came in second and the first male finisher. At this point in my life, I'm just thankful I'm alive and kickin'. That's much more important than whatever the prize was or whether I get it or not. I do find it somewhat ironic that most of my training consisted of a cardiac stress test.

Like most people I'm acquainted with, I've got lots to be thankful for, not just today but every day. I'm healthy, wealthy and wise. Healthy enough to walk a 5K, wealthy enough to live a comfortable existence and wise enough to appreciate all that I've got. I've already listened to Alice's Restaurant, so it's food, friends, family, and football from this point forward.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Block & Tackle

Well, not really. It was more like tackle the block. I alluded to this job a couple of months back and was going to get to it right after the owner returned from a trip he was taking. His return coincided with the Missus falling and breaking her shoulder as well as harvest time. Finally got around to welding it up this morning.

Another one of those jobs that's easy when you know how. I removed the piece, beveled the edges and ground some metal along the break line so it would fit back together nicely. Even though cast iron is pretty brittle, it does stretch some and removing a little metal is normally required to get things to fall back into place. There were also a couple of spider cracks that needed to be "Vee'd" out. The welding rods I used normally do a bang up job but they are getting old and have picked up some moisture over the years. Between that and a little oil sucking up through the cracks, I got a few pinholes but I ground the weld beads down and two passed everything and it looked real good. Much better than is evident from the crappy photo. The photo is the first I've ever taken with a cell phone. If they all look like that, it'll probably be the last, too.

I did a little solder job for the landlord at the boxing gym yesterday. I should have taken a picture of that one. It was nice and shiny brass. No biggy on the job - took longer to drag the tools out and line the pieces up than it did to fix the thing. It was some kind of pendulum for a clock. He called to thank me while I was fixing the tractor block and said he's got some little woodworking project he wants me to take a look at.

There's no end to things that need to be fixed out there. However, there is an end to the number of people capable of doing a lot of these little jobs. Solder brass, weld cast iron, do a little woodworking - all in a days work for me. I welded the block up at the high school where I was formerly held captive. I was there for a couple of hours and only a couple of students showed any interest in what I was doing. Nice thing about it, though. There's always going to be a place for those guys. It would be nice to figure out who turned off the curiosity on the rest on them. If it takes 10,000 hours to develop your craft, why not take advantage of the opportunity afforded to you in high school and get a head start on people who will later be competing against you for a job? You would think after all these years I'd have the answers. Nope, still asking questions though.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Whadda You Do For An Encore?

You make payments. 

The Missus decided on a Buick Encore to replace the mini-van. It's a small car - not much bigger than the VW bug, actually. It's got a turbocharged 4 cylinder that's supposed to get good mileage while still getting decent performance. I drove it home from the dealer last night and it seemed to have more than enough pep to pull it around. I didn't try hitting it hard or passing anyone at 60 mph but it didn't feel gutless like so many of the small cars have been in the past. It's got lots of cool features if you're into electronic stuff - trial versions of OnStar and XM radio. I don't know about the OnStar but I like the satellite radio. I can get blues and jazz any time I want - not just late in the evening and Sunday afternoons like on NPR.  I've pretty well given up on the commercial radio stations. Except for one fairly local station, everything else is all to some type of standardized format: classic rock, country or some ungodly talk radio crap, all with repetitious commercials - like Me-TV only without Peter Francis Geraci.

Getting back to the Encore however, it seems to be a well built small car and a good value for the money - might even restore my faith in General Motors. The last time I considered buying a Buick was a GS model in 1971. I ended up with a Cutlass instead and Buick went back to being somewhat of a luxury car or something an old retired guy would drive. Well, that's what we've got here now. Old retired guy in a Buick, just not the stereotypical Buick of the past. It's still no Jaguar, though.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I dropped some sheet metal off at Surly's place over the weekend for his garage remodel and the subject of Jaguars came up - imagine that, talking cars and bikes in the garage - and then a couple of days later he sends me this. One beautiful motorcar, don't you think? The E-Type Jag ranks right up there with the Ferrari's and Maserati's as far as I'm concerned. Maybe not equal on the performance level but every bit as beautiful. I've got to go back to the dentist in a couple of weeks. Instead of stopping at Harbor Freight, maybe I should stop at the Jaguar dealer. It's on the way.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tools - New Cheap Ones & Old Good Ones

I went to the dentist yesterday for what I thought was going to be the final installation of the dental implant. That didn't work out as planned but at least this trip was painless and they assured me I'll get the new tooth next time for sure. Anyway, when traveling to the dentist I drive right by a Harbor Freight and a couple of blocks down the street, a new two story Menards. That being the case, I check the sale papers from both places and plan a stop if need be. Normally these trips are about six months apart but with the implant thing and all that's gone awry, it's becoming more of a monthly trip. In fact, I've made at least ten trips since they pulled the tooth in May. So it's not likely I'm going to need much traveling by as often as I've been doing as of late.

However, I couldn't resist this set of screwdrivers. With coupon, only $4.99. Thirty two pieces total including a Tee handle driver that every motorcycle mechanic must have, and that one in the foreground with the blue shank? That's a telescoping pick-up magnet. Granted, it's all Chinese crap but for five bucks I now have a screwdriver set that I can keep in the new barn to use on the VW, lawnmower, etc., without making a trip to the shop.

They also had bench brushes for $1.98. I was looking for one of those to clean up around my new lathe and for two bucks each, I bought two. That little widget in the foreground is a peg I turned on the new wood lathe to hang the face plate on when not in use. I managed to get the diameter of the small end just about right on the button for a good glue fit in the hole I bored in the end of the bench. Which I did with this:

It's been a while since I've used a brace and bit but it's amazing how well they work. The cabinet where I keep this thing is right next to the spot where I needed to bore the hole. It took less time with this than it would have to drag out the electric drill, spade bit and an extension cord. And it was nice and quiet. There's something very pleasing about working wood with hand tools. If I ever get back on the boat project, quite a bit of that will be done just with hand tools. In fact, when they ran the story in Wooden Boat magazine, the builder put the whole boat together sans power tools. 

It's a shame that schools no longer teach much of this. If you want to light a fire under a young guy, a brace and bit along with some other hand tools makes for one helluva match. If you're a craftsman or a dreamer, you watch Richard Proenneke's Alone in the Wilderness, and you'll be buying a brace and bit to have around even if you don't need a hole drilled. I watched a few episodes of the Prepper show and I was surprised there was never much focus by anyone on making sure they had the proper tools for supporting themselves without electricity. Lots of food, guns and ammo, but not too many hand saws and bench planes. If things go bad, I'll be set for hand tools but I'm going to miss my cordless drill.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gettin' Old, Part Two

I may be getting older but I had a stress test yesterday morning and did very well, thank you. However, I asked a couple of the nurses/technicians about being able to reverse heart disease and just what will the doctor be looking for when he checks this test and compares it to last one I had. The male nurse gave me an explanation about collateral arteries and the heart muscle that didn't really address the issue but he was very nice and professional. The lady nurse gave me a kind smile and a look that said "You poor delusional dear. Reversing heart disease never happens."

So the question becomes, is it, or is it not possible to reverse the effects of heart disease? From what I've read, the answer is yes. From what I heard yesterday, no. Is that because it can't be done or that it's just so rare that they never see it? Following along on that line of reasoning, is the reason that they never see it because of the treatment they prescribe? I've got no complaints about the the treatment I received from any of the medical professionals I've dealt with since the heart attack but since leaving rehab, it seems like there should be some involvement some place along the line to make sure that the compliance is there on stress reduction, diet, etc. It may be that some of that will be driven by the outcome of these test results. Realistically though, if I'm motivated enough to keep the exercise regimen in place and the cholesterol numbers down with the diet, why should they worry about me? Makes plenty of sense but if it's possible to reverse the effects and actually open up some of the arteries with simple lifestyle changes, why wouldn't that path be promoted heavily? And even if the changes don't reverse the disease but prevent things from getting any worse, that would be one heck of a medical breakthrough.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to throw that onto the pile of life's unanswered questions. I can toss it next to why in the hell did gasoline go up thirty-nine cents per gallon on Wednesday? The Missus is all "Who gives a shit why the gas price went up thirty-nine cents? It's not like understanding it is going to prevent it? Let it go." While I have to admit she's absolutely correct on that, I seem to have this penchant for wanting to completely understand all the issues influencing a subject once I get interested in it. With the local gas prices, it's probably nothing more than the guy owning the string of stations screwing with people. No rhyme or reason to it.

With the heart health, I see now that a lot more could be done just with education for both prevention and cure. Seems to me one of the health care providers would be sure that you were better informed about how the body's systems are all interrelated and any advice given would be based on fact rather on what they think the average Joe is really going to do to help himself along in the future. Granted nine out of ten people probably wouldn't listen to the doctor anyway, but for someone like myself, I'd appreciate a straight answer if it's going to extend my life span and improve the quality of life I'm enjoying while I'm here. I'm more than willing to give a little to get a little.

Anyway, I'm feeling good about my results regardless of my unanswered questions. And to make yesterday even better, my former colleague and running buddy, Kevin, got engaged to a wonderful young lady. Best wishes to the both of them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gettin' Old

First I have the heart attack. Next, the Missus takes her fall. And last weekend I ran into a former student with gray hair on his temples peeking out from under his ball cap. Man, I didn't think it had been that long since I had him in school. Of course, I think he might have spent a couple of extra years in 8th grade. In fact, I think they promoted him to high school just because they didn't have a lot for student parking at the middle school. Regardless, it has now come to this:

I'm putting the little doggie coat on Larry before he goes out. In my defense though, it was snowing. And I told the Missus there's no way I'm putting doggie boots on him unless he starts pulling a sled this winter. 

I managed to get the lathe running over the weekend. I still need to move the light and make a rack for the lathe tools but I made a round piece out of a square piece, so I've got that going for me. I'm going to have to think about sharpening the tools as they become dull. I sharpened the set I've got at school before I retired so they're good now but that won't last long. I've got a grinder in the other shop next to my lathe but that's not the best wheel for wood lathe tools and it's not handy at all to go from building to building to touch up a lathe tool. I bought a Wolverine grinding jig for the high school when I taught woodshop. When I took the turning class at the Marc Adams school, the instructor said it's the best way to go and it does make it easy to sharpen the turning tools. It's less than a hundred bucks for the basic set-up but I'd need a grinder as well. I'll start doing a little research and see what I can come up with.

I did manage to drag out a couple of pieces for the 900 swing arm the last couple of days as well. I'm going to try and get that all tacked together real soon. I'd sandblasted the arm quite a while ago and it's starting to rust. I need to get it together and get some primer on it. When I get that finished I can put it back under the bike and tackle widening the rear wheel. I need to get on this stuff. I don't want to start experiencing the Zeigernik Effect again. If I've got time to dress the dog before he goes out, I've got time to do a little fabricating. I've got a couple of jobs that I need to get to for other people and then I hope to start cranking it up. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane Paved With Rust

Photo From Here
Interesting design criteria - how the car is going to be shipped from the factory. The Chevy Vega and the Pontiac version were designed to be shipped on their noses in specially designed rail cars called Vert-A-Pacs allowing for thirty cars to be shipped at a time rather than the usual eighteen. They probably should have spent a little more time on the engine design and the rustproofing. I was working at a weld shop when these pieces of junk were in production. The boss sent me over to the local Chevy dealer to measure up for a guard on an air compressor and there was a big stack of fenders in the room that had been warrantied due to rust damage. They only had a three year warranty, by the way. GM was constantly upgrading the cars and by the end of the production run they were almost mediocre. Sort of like the history of the Corvair. Apparently that lesson hadn't sunk home too well. As most of the Vegas rusted away early on, if you were born after 1980 it's quite conceivable that you never have, nor ever will see a Vega. When I was on my bicycle trip out West a few years back, I saw one actually being driven on the street. My buddy and I both looked at each other in disbelief and then swapped a few Vega horror stories. And then came the Chevette.

The Missus and I are in the market for a new car. Since the last decent Chevy I owned was a '67 Impala, we'll probably bypass the Chevy dealers. There are no more Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs to be had, so not much left in the GM line to interest me. We're both driving Dodges now but, and I hate to say it, I might end up with a Japanese brand. Of course, the Subaru is made less than an hour away from me and I have a couple of my former students employed there, so it's Japanese but made in America. 

The story of the Detroit automakers going into the toilet has been well documented over the years so I don't really have to go into it, but they never really seemed to learn much or at least fast enough to recover their market share. If they built a decent small car the Koreans wouldn't have been able to set up shop here in the last few years and cut their sliver of the pie even smaller. Cash for Clunkers. Too Big to Fail. Maybe just so poorly managed that they can't make a decent small car at a profit. When I read the book about Detroit recently (Sept. 14 post), the author mentioned the auto execs going to Washington to look for a handout. The Chrysler guys had a chase car with tools and engineers following them because they weren't sure the hybrid would make it all the way. And then the big shots flew back home. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Wood Lathe

I finished the bench for my new mini-lathe on Monday. I still need to bolt the lathe to the bench but it's just about ready to be up and running. The lathe came with a rack for the tools - knock-out bar, spindle wrench. etc. - that I'm going to fasten to the left end of the bench and I'll make a rack for the turning tools on the right front. The bench should be long enough to fasten the extended ways later on if I decide to spring for those. I probably will but I've used up my tool buying budget for a while. I need to move one of the can lights I put up over the router table. You can see from the photo the light pattern shines mostly on the bare end of the bench. No big deal there - just buy another piece of BX a couple of feet longer, unscrew the bracket from the trusses and move it down a couple of feet. 

When I finish with the lathe installation I should be about set for equipment. I'd like to have a decent drill press and a planer would be nice but what I need next is to get the other tools moved out of the basement and into the barn. I'm not planning on becoming a woodworker necessarily, but it would be nice to have everything in one spot and be able to make sawdust without worrying about it getting all over the house. 

I managed to fix a couple of other items Monday as well. I managed to break off the plug for the headphones inside the MP3 player a couple of weeks ago. I was mowing and I had the ear buds inside my muffs and the player in my pocket. I got off the mower to move a hunk of cable by the scrap pile and when I tossed the cable it snagged the wire, pulled the ear buds out of the muffs and broke off the very bottom of the plug in the jack. If I hadn't have been wearing the ear muffs it probably would have just pulled the cord out and I would have been OK. However, I was working on another little project and came across the ball point pen refill in the photo. It was a perfect fit into the broken piece so I mixed up a little epoxy, put a dab on the end of it and glued it to the broken part inside the player. Three hours later, gave it a tug and out she came. I also fixed the paper shredder for the Missus. All this hanging around the house is starting to pay dividends. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Things - Like a Walk In The Park

I did a 1.5 mile Wellness Walk yesterday. Actually it was more like 1.75 miles. I missed the cut-off and had to back track. The guy in charge had an arrow and was on the bullhorn but he didn't point the arrow until I was past him and even though it was a non-competitive walk, I was coming up on two other walkers and figured if I turned it up a notch or two I would be the first one in. As it turns out, they were walking the four mile course and I ended up eleventh. No problem. It was a beautiful day for a walk/run and my running partner did a respectable job on the four miler. I got another new shirt, a pair of gloves, a cookie, a banana, and spent some time with a good friend, so it was a good morning. I came home and watched a little football and worked on the stand for the new lathe. Going to see if I can finish that up today and do a little garden work as well

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Insurance Woes

Photo From Here

The more I look at the photos of sidecars, the more I think I should build another one. The 900 still has the lugs on the frame from the one I made way back when. Of course if I can't find the time to finish the bike, how the hell am I going to build a sidecar? Maybe during the time that I would have been working the lab assistant gig?

Things are kind of up in the air at the college now due to the ObamaCare debacle. Since the two part time gigs I'm working add up to more than thirty hours, something needs to give or the college has to offer me insurance. Since option number two is not going to happen, I'm waiting for someone to make a decision on what I can do. The college, of course, is waiting to see if the starting date is going to change on the Affordable Care Act. At least I've got health insurance, unlike many who are now receiving cancellation notices from their insurers. Mine went up $300/month last April in anticipation of this mess but I still have good insurance, just not what most reasonable people would call affordable. Looks like there are going to be a whole bunch of people in a similar fix. Work hours cut, insurance plan cut. Wait until the "Death Panels" come on line. Since they've apparently lied about everything else, probably should have figured they were lying about that too.

Enough bellyaching. I need to go do something good for the soul. Maybe a long walk.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I'll Be Turning Soon

Photo From Here
I've been getting back into the swing of things. We had a couple of gorgeous days and with the Missus feeling better I was able to get outside and get a few things done. I got the new barn cleaned up, both upstairs and down. I put some Sta-Bil in the gas tank of the Suzuki and topped it off with fresh hi-test. I bought a cover for it from Menards while they had the 11% Rebate sale going on - only twenty bucks to start with, it's pretty nice and I get two bucks back. Also stopped at the bank to see about getting some Euros for the trip - that explains the photo of Sophia, like I need any other reason to post a photo of Sophia other than it's Sophia.

Finally got around to making the headrest for the creeper I made. The foam should have been a little firmer but it'll work. It's not like I plan on spending a lot of time under vehicles. The main thing is I have a creeper and unless I run the thing over, it should be the last one I'll ever need.

My new wood lathe showed up this week. I've been looking for a mini-lathe and this one seems to be decent. I ordered it from Menards and got the 11% Rebate and free shipping right to the house. It's only 16" between centers but they sell an add on piece that will stretch it out to 40" for something around 100 bucks. I need to make a stand or a shelf of some kind to hang the lathe off the wall. When I get around to that I'll make it long enough to accommodate the extra length if I decide to buy the extended ways or make my own. I'll work on coming up with a design for the stand over the weekend. Whatever you do, enjoy yours.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Photo From Here
Photo From Here
It won't be Paris in the Springtime but it will be Paris and Paris in the winter is better than no Paris at all. I met up with a couple of my fellow travelers for breakfast last Saturday, ostensibly for a little planning session but as it ended up our lady traveler brought a trio of nephews along so she didn't enter into the conversation too much. My buddy and I are both going to be looking into obtaining some Euros, lining up a cell phone that works in Europe and credit/debit cards that will do likewise. Last time we went, the tour company provided my buddy with a phone and the rest of us all had an opportunity to load up a Visa debit card that was good in Italy. I just opened an account that has a debit card associated with it and they're supposed to reimburse any and all ATM fees, so I should be good on the card. As long as one of us has a phone, we can share it and set up some type of phone chain on the home front prior to leaving so it will only require one call home and everyone will be in the loop. I think a couple of them are planning on taking a laptop along so e-mails can be sent as well.

Starting to get excited about the trip. I need to go through the wardrobe and see what I need to fill in the gaps - can't wait too much longer or I won't be able to buy any warm clothing. It's not even Halloween and the stores already have Christmas stuff out, the mercenary bastards. Thanksgiving needs to do a little PR work. It's pretty well out of the game now, other than people going to the grocery store to buy a turkey and some cranberry sauce, that is. Maybe I'll do my Christmas shopping in Europe this year. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd say that! In the meantime, I'll start getting my things in order.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


"In one hundred years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college."

Joseph Sobran
Quote From Here

Monday, October 28, 2013

In My Element

I'm currently reading The Element by Ken Robinson. I'm about half way through the book, and as expected from something written by Sir Ken, it's an excellent read. As the subtitle suggests, it's all about finding your passion. He cites many examples of people who find their passion and go on to do great things. My big question is what about those who either never find it or get talked out of pursuing it. I've seen a lot of students over the years who didn't seem to have any aspirations to do big things. Or even much of anything for that matter. I'm sure that will be addressed in the book at some point but I'd be willing to bet a lot of drug, alcohol and crime problems stem from people who have never found their element. Me? I'm certainly one of the fortunate people who have found their element. I give you Exhibit A:

If you look closely you can see the repaired boss on the motorcycle engine case above. Nothing to it really. My buddy made a replacement piece and all I had to do was weld it in and add a little more weld along the mating seam to the left of the boss. I'm not sure what the other aluminum piece is on top of the case. He said weld it here and that's what I did. After years of doing this kind of work, it's almost a no-brainer but yet they never are. The reason the jobs are so easy is because the solution is already in the brain. You don't have to think about it because you've already thought about it. A lot. 

I've been working on motorcycles for almost 50 years now either by turning wrenches on my own bikes or by welding/fabricating on bikes for myself and others. I would have been real happy to have made a living welding on race bikes or choppers or doing some type of custom sheet metal work on cars. I'm certainly in my element when I'm doing that. I still have a lot to learn but I do have the passion. Seems like I got sidetracked with teaching school but looking back on it, I'd have to say I was in my element there as well. What a blessing it has been to be able to make a living and have a hobby where I was in my element.

If you're an educator, I recommend reading The Element. If you've never found your passion, you definitely need to read The Element. If you're living your passion you're in the element. Consider yourself very lucky. Read The Element so you'll know how really lucky you are.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Profound Disconnect

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, and friend to all of us in vocational education, has a scholarship program that has a little twist to it. He makes all recipients sign the SWEAT pledge. You can get all the details at his Profoundly Disconnected website, and I strongly urge you to check it out, but the following quote gives you an idea of where Mr. Rowe is coming from:

"We're lending money we don't have, to students who can't pay it back, to educate them for jobs that no longer exist. That's nuts."

He's definitely right on the money with that. He and John Ratzenburger are probably two of the most influential people in "hands-on" education these days. It's a shame there aren't more like them out there. Probably the real shame is the fact that the big muckity-mucks have lost sight of the real value of vocational education and apprenticeships in creating wealth for our country and rewarding careers for its citizens. Profoundly disconnected, indeed. Also, to complete the hands-on hat trick, if you haven't checked out The Wisdom of The Hands blog recently, Doug Stowe has a couple of interesting posts about Milton Bradley along with all his usual good stuff. Games and education go hand in hand it seems. Definitely no disconnect there. Unless you're one of the knuckleheads who feels that recess needs to be discontinued in order to leave more time for testing. Then it's more games with education.

Since it's getting cold out and there's not much worth watching on television, you might want to attend a local school board meeting to find out just what is going on with your local school. After a couple of meetings, it'll be pretty easy to see the value, or lack there of, that is placed on vocational education. We need to make our voices heard.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hemp - Breakfast of Champions

I stumbled across another photo-blog that has lots of good motorcycle stuff. A few other things, but mostly bikes. You can check it out by clicking here

I've been starting my days off right lately with a little "weed" for breakfast.

I'm not much of a shopper and the older I get, the less I need more things to clutter up my life but I do enjoy going to Trader Joe's. The stores seem to have a nice bohemian vibe - like the people working there would have all been beatniks back in the '50's. "Like cool, Daddy-O." Or maybe like the hippies in the 70's. "Far out, man. Granola with weed." But more importantly, it's also possible to get food that isn't loaded with sodium, sugar and fat. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

It's been cold here the last couple of nights - down to about 25 degrees on Monday night. I think the peppers are going to be OK but that's about it for everything else in the garden for the year. I'm pretty happy with the results of the Square Foot Garden and plan on adding one more box next year. I'll plant the tomatoes outside the boxes and try to get a few things started a little earlier. By having the tree taken down, everything should get more sun light and do better. I hate to be a "buzzkill" (staying with the hemp theme here), but I think growing your own food and getting debt free is going to be much more important in the near future. Even if things don't turn sour, nothing wrong with eating fresh vegetables and having more cash at your disposal.

I've got another Ducati case to weld up. My buddy brought one by the college the other night. This one is for the bike he plans to ride in the Moto Giro in Italy next year. Wish I was going. It'd be real cool to ride around Italy on a little Sprint/Aermacchi. The other Ducati case I worked on he got back together but the kickstarter gears need some work. He can't find anything through his contacts or after searching the internet. Apparently the gears on the 200 cc bikes were a poor design to begin with and 50 some years later most all of the spares have been used up. He was wondering if I could weld up a couple of the teeth. Welding them isn't a problem but the heat treatment is. I need to look into that a little more before I tackle one. At least I'm working on a motorcycle project instead of just household chores now. Lots more fun than laundry and getting things ready for winter around the shack.

This is what an Elite looks like when restored better than new. Gotta love the jelly mold tank! Be a real gas riding one of these in the Moto Giro. The photo's from the same place as the sidecar picture, by the way.

And on the education front, the local paper reported about a high school teacher who got some students all beered up then took them to a strip club and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction is suing the State Board of Education for violating the "Open Meeting" law. Makes you wonder what all of those clowns were smoking. Especially the high school teacher. Time for that dude to find a new line of work.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is That All There Is?

Now that I've gotten some but not all of the vitriol out of my system concerning the federal government, maybe I can focus on matters closer to home.

The Missus is doing better, the cat's dead and buried and I just dropped off the brake rotors from the truck to get turned at the machine shop. 

Yep. That's all there is. Oh, there is one more thing. The dog puked on the front seat of the van when I went to pick up the brake rotors. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Photo From Here
Moto Guzzi sidecar racer. Hard to beat that combination. 

Maybe I can sign up for my Social Security and take the first few checks to construct an outfit like this one. Oh, wait. All you get at the Social Security website is a blank page. I still remember the words of President Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." OK. After giving away nearly a third of all my income for the last 45 years, anything else I can do for you idiot politicians? How about a couple of suggestions? While you're frittering away my grandsons' future, maybe keep the parks open with the money you piss away on foreign aid and then sit down at the table and negotiate in good faith. Maybe realize this isn't just some silly pissing contest. This is the future of the free world at stake. 300 million people in this country and this is all we get? A bunch of clowns that can't balance a budget? Hell, you haven't even made one.

You keep fooling around and there's going to be a revolution, televised or not. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Leaders, my ass.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Technically Perfect

Photo From Here
Man what a beautiful automobile. Gorgeous metal work and those big drum brakes are just too much. Especially mated up to the wire wheels with the knock-offs.

And the photograph? Razor sharp focus with excellent depth of field. In fact, the depth of field seems to fade away at just about the same rate as the light does. Excellent shadow detail without blowing out the highlights on the nose of the car. For a fan of B&W photography and open wheel race cars such as myself, this is one great photograph.

Now down to a little business. My weekly e-mail from the American Welding Society had a  blurb about a charter school that opened up a manufacturing lab that includes welding machines.They also had an update on several other schools that are reopening or updating welding programs, an article on why jobs are hard to fill, and a story on Berkshire Community College offering a free course to those interested in manufacturing. All the things I've been addressing recently were hit in one e-mail. How 'bout that? Free college education, charter schools including the trades in their curriculum, the hard and soft skills required to be a good employee, and a good article about 3D printing for prototyping. If you had looked at all the articles in the AWS e-mail, you would have noticed a lot of business and industry cooperating with education in order to address the issues and work up the solutions. That's a good sign. If they can keep all of the government red tape out of the loop, might see some real progress in both education and manufacturing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Harvest Time

Pretty quiet weekend around the Shop Teacher Bob shack. Farmer Norm's grandson harvested our soybeans. The young man seems to have a pretty good handle on things but he's got some pretty big shoes to fill after Norm's passing. The fields always looks so barren after harvest and it's a sure sign that winter's just around the corner. It also means the Lady Bugs and field mice will be descending upon the house like the plague. Not much I can do about the Lady Bugs but I'll start running the trap line again. The worthless house cat is not long for this world. She can't hardly get around at all, let alone chase mice. The poor thing had a stroke earlier this summer and it's been all down hill since.  

I did make it out into the woodshop Saturday to put the tools away from the dog pen job and I managed to make a quick rack for the bar clamps. Basically it's just a 2x4 fastened to the wall but I did cut the ends back on a 45 so it's not just a 2x4 screwed to the wall. If need be I'll add a knee brace under the middle to keep it from sagging when I have more time to spend out there. I wanted to get things tidied up so I could work on the boat some before it gets cold but it's not looking too promising right now. I'm still spending most of my free time doing household chores or babysitting the dog but the Missus is healing up pretty quickly, however. You can tell the pain is easing up by the way she's getting around and the fact that she's able to sleep better now. Won't be long and it'll be business as usual around here once again. 

Have a good week!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Education Threads

I received an e-mail from my buddy Kevin after the last post - he'll be going to Europe with the group - and said when I finish the book about Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, I should read the Element by Ken Robinson. I'm somewhat familiar with Mr. Robinson but I went to TED and listened to one of his speeches again. He's an excellent speaker. Kind of a cross between a stand up comedian and the person you would want to be the superintendent at the school corporation you worked at and your children attended. The link here will take you to one of the TED presentations. It's about 20 minutes long. If you can't devote that much time, tune in at about the 8:30-9:00 minute mark. That's when he really gets down to business discussing how schools kill creativity in their effort to turn everyone into a college professor. On second thought, make yourself a cup of Joe, get comfortable and watch the whole presentation. It's well worth it. And then make time to watch another one.

The October 1st Wall Street Journal had an op-ed piece with the title: "Who Says Home-Ec Isn't a Core Subject." Apparently Japanese Schools teach home-economics starting in the fifth grade and continuing through high school. The students learn sewing skills, meal planning, cooking, grocery shopping, and woodworking. The punchline of the piece is: "Like Japan, we needn't fear that time allocated to home economics will get in the way of a sound education. We need to embrace the idea that it is essential to one." Really, this op-ed piece needs to be read in it's entirety as well. To find out more about the author's work, check here.

The WSJ also had special section on education on Wednesday of this week. The feature opened with a story about Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs as they are called  (Time magazine also did a piece on these recently as well). If your not familiar with this movement, you will be. Now you too will be able to have a Harvard education but you won't have to leave home or spend $50 grand a year. One fact I found especially interesting in the opening graphic was that midnight to 2 a.m. are the peak hours for viewing edx lecture videos. Maybe night school should actually be night school. Also, there are innovation courses available to business executives and others where "Lectures are out. Learning by doing is in."  This kind of stuff always makes me chuckle. Learning by doing - have we all forgotten John Dewey? Also available at WSJ.com/Leadership Report is a video about "a high school that has done away with paper textbooks and requires all students to study using tablets and laptops."

Most importantly, for everyone who wishes to learn by doing and with no laptop required, no less, I received a postcard in the mail announcing that someone has bought Lindsay's books and publishing rights. The new business is called Your Old Time Bookstore and you can find them right here. So yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. MOOCs, digital textbooks, apps, it's all good and they're here to stay. But there's still a place for a cheap book full of old time technology.

Summing this all up or looking for the common thread, the WSJ has an op-ed piece stating that home economics should be part of the common core in schools, Sir Kenneth Robinson says that schools currently are killing creativity by marginalizing the arts, and in the special feature section the WSJ says we should be learning by doing, and if you must attend lectures, you can do that at midnight from your from your own home or damn near any place in the world as long as you have internet access. And as if all of this isn't enough to think about, it's once again possible to buy a reprint of an old book about steam engines, woodworking, metal working, and a host of other subjects.

I think it's obvious that the educational model is changing, and for the better. The test, test, test format isn't working and there is no reason to expect it to. The students are much more digital savvy and the delivery system is going to have to be as well. Learning by doing, hands-on, experiential, Flipped Learning - whatever you want to call it - has always been successful. No reason it can't still be, schools just need to start doing a little more of it. Charter schools are going to force the public schools to change or maybe I should say allow the public schools to change. Either that or the politicians will load the charter schools up with the same burdensome rules as public schools and they too will lose the ability to create innovative solutions. (The politicians can't be that stupid, can they? Okay, we all know the answer to that one.) With college education having become prohibitively expensive and no longer a path to guaranteed employment, the MOOCs are going to play an even more important role in education, whether that's part of a traditional degree program or leading to some type of a non- accredited degree, that is, you take the courses but since you don't properly register and pay for the credits, you just get smarter rather than getting poorer. As Sam Cooke sang back in the 60's, "Change is gonna come, oh yes it will." And it's about time.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Co-Inky Dinky

So I was looking at the Bookpuddle blog and he reviewed a book called Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Company. It looks like it would be a good read and since I plan to be in Paris before the year is out, first thing I do is look for the book in the electronic card catalog of the local library and the second thing I do is a search for Shakespeare & Co. Seems that the original bookstore was located at 8 Rue Dupuytren. It also seems that's the name of the thing that's growing in my hand, Dupuytren that is, not Shakespeare. Seems also that the orthopedic doctor my wife saw the other day does the required surgery I'm going to need one of these days - they even had a brochure available explaining the ins and outs of Dupuytren's Contracture. Not looking forward to surgery but as slow as it's progressing maybe I can wait it out.

Apparently Baron Guillaume Dupuytren was a pretty famous French surgeon - besides his namesake hand growth and surgery, he performed brain surgery using the trepanning method (machinists also use this method for making holes) and worked on Napoleon's hemorrhoids. There is even the Musee Dupuytren in Paris. Seems like quite the coincidence of coming across the book, the brochure in the doctor's office and the Paris connection roughly 180 years after Dupuytren's career came to a close. Not so sure I need to find the museum named after Dupuytren but I'd like to check out the bookstore while I'm in Paris.

Really looking forward to going back to Europe.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Not Cyclone Fence - A Fence and a Cyclone

Photo From Here
I put the finishing touches on the doggie kennel/fenced area yesterday. That'll make life much easier for the Missus while I'm at work. It's nothing fancy - in fact it's kind of hillbilly - but it's a minor triumph as far as expediency goes, so there you go.

In between doing the household chores and building dog pens, I managed to finish another book. The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra. As you would surmise from the title, according to the authors, heart disease is not all about cholesterol. Much of what they say goes along with the logic of the Paleo diet but if cholesterol isn't the problem, what is, you may ask. In a nutshell, sugar, stress and trans fats. Those three cause inflammation and inflammation causes heart disease. In my case, it kind of makes sense. I already was on a fairly low sodium and saturated fat diet but the stress level kept creeping up and the jelly beans, candy corn and cheap sandwich cookies were consumed by the handfuls. And chips, of course. For years. 

The book talks about the whys and wherefores of the research that led to cholesterol being branded public enemy number one. It also spells out what you should toss out of your diet and what you should replace it with. The authors say eat fish and grass fed beef but most everything else is eat more beans, veggies, nuts, berries, and fruit. Lots of good info in this one. I read a couple more books and I'll be the foremost authority on heart health. At least I'll be better informed than a lot of doctors. It would be nice if we all could get sound nutritional advice from our family physicians before we have a thrombus/embolus. See? I'm already starting to talk like an authority.

On a totally unrelated topic, I checked out the Dorkpunch blog and he has a new sandblaster cabinet for his classroom. He mentioned making a dust collection doohickey like the one in the photo from a traffic cone but couldn't remember where he saw it - thought maybe it might have been me. Nope. I started making something for my cabinet but I think I might just buy another Dust Deputy. This thing works really well with sawdust, probably would for sandblasting dust too. It's a little pricey - $39.00 + 12.50 shipping and you supply the bucket and the hose adapters. For a middle school shop teacher, the traffic cone might be more economical and fun. For the record, the cyclone is 11" high, about 5-3/4" at the top and 3" at the bottom.

Have a good week everyone. Other than worrying about the dishpan hands, everything's under control here. At least for a while. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Arm Wrestling

Photo From Here
I took the Missus to the doctor the other day and the news was good, in that no surgery will be required. The bone is broken in two places right at the top of the arm bone, so she's to keep it immobilized but try and work the elbow and wrist joints so they don't freeze up. Looks like a minimum of six weeks of her doing mostly nothing and me doing mostly everything but that's part of the package - in sickness and in health and all that - and as I mentioned in the previous post, the shoe has been on the other foot here. Actually, more like the sling has been on the other arm but you get the picture.

I'm going to try and rig up a dog pen today if it ever stops raining. I was planning on something a little fancier than what's going together now but I need something ASAP so she can let the dog in and out with just one hand while I'm at work. One nice thing about living back off the road - no worries about "curb appeal" - and it'll be handy over the winter.

Not much else on the agenda for at least a few more days while her pain subsides and she becomes a little more ambulatory.