Saturday, March 30, 2013

Buona Pasqua

Happy Easter. The temperature was finally up into the 50's the last couple of days. The Missus and I have been doing some Spring cleaning in preparation for some company coming in tomorrow and just because it's that time of year. Washed the sheets and hung them on the line, put the snowblower back in the barn, worked on the driveway a little bit, packed up a couple of more things for Goodwill - just doing springtimey things that you don't mind doing because Spring is here with all of it's hope and renewal and it's good to be able to walk out of the house without having to bundle up or put on boots because of sloppy, wet snow.

And going along with that, here's a shot of a couple of guys at the college working on my tomato stakes. The school offers a fabricating class, so the instructor said bring the material in and he'd have his people knock them out for me. I also picked up some more supplies for the Square Foot Garden the other day as well. I still need some vermiculite and compost, but other than that, I'm about ready for planting. Still about a month to go before anything gets put in the ground but I want to start some seeds this weekend. The weatherman is still forecasting night time temps below freezing for next week but I'm looking forward to the garden project.

Enjoy your Easter dinner, and hopefully, your time spent with family and friends. Remember what the day is all about and go easy on the chocolate bunnies.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Postcard From Paris

I got this postcard in the mail the other day. One of Surly's good friends sent it to me while he was over there. The Missus let him know that I want to get there some day. He mailed it in December and it showed up almost exactly three months later. A little beat up and wrinkled - kind of like me actually - but it truly is the thought that counts. Thanks Jimmy. I'm hoping this is the year.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mo' Snow

Another fine Spring morning - woke up to 3-4 inches of wet snow on the ground. At least the wind had died down before the majority of the snow came in so it hadn't drifted much. Actually quite pleasant out there shoveling - a little gray but not the bitter cold of last week. Since bitchin' about the weather last week didn't seem to help, I'll just try to enjoy the beauty of the last snowfall of the season. According to the weather forecast, looking at temps in the 50's by the end of the week.

Have a good week.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Music Box

Because the weather was a balmy 45 degrees today, I did a little woodworking out in the new barn. Nothing fancy but it was good to be out of the house tinkering with a little something.

Since radio reception is a little sketchy around my neck of the woods, I thought it would be nice to get myself an amp for my MP3 player. Menards had one on sale cheap, the only problem being it's not the most mobile of things, what with a couple of speakers and a power cord with a built in transformer. Well, I got that solved. I built a carrier out of a piece of scrap plywood so I can move it to wherever I'm working. I drilled a couple of holes in the back of it so I can hang it on the wall. I'm going to make a couple of hangers for the remote speakers as well. Now it's portable enough (10"x10"x10") I can tote it between my different worksites, listen to whatever I want with no fading in and out of the FM, and no commercials. Sweet.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I've About Had Enough of This

Cold weather that is. How in the hell is a guy supposed to get anything done in the shop or outside when it's 12 degrees outside? Maybe if that was Celsius but not when we're talking Farenheit. The average temps this time of the year are somewhere around mid 40's. Not toasty but when coupled with the longer daylight, enough to get you up and doing things. What have we got now? Windchills around zero, not just freezing but zero. Last year at this time we were setting records for warm days. Actually hit the 80's a year ago this week. Spring my ass! Mother nature can sure be cruel.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Education Rant

I saw this while catching up on some of my blog perusing now that I've got the kitchen done. I especially like number 3: "You can steer yourself any direction you choose". Yes, yes you can. This came from Live Long and Prosper. There's a lot of good educational stuff there as always. The thing I found most interesting lately was the concept of tenure. Teachers don't actually have tenure, they have due process. It makes quite a difference when you hear politicians bad-mouthing teachers and their unions and how you can never get rid of a bad teacher. Yes you can. It happens all the time. It's a shame that it needs to happen but it's good that it does, if that makes any sense. It just requires due process and due diligence by those in charge. I wonder how come I've never seen that in the papers? Doesn't much matter in Indiana any more.Teachers have neither tenure or due process.

When I went out for breakfast Saturday it was with four of my former colleagues, two of which are still at the same high school I retired from. I couldn't keep from laughing when they were talking about all the meetings and the hoops they have to jump through now. I won't say it's a conspiracy, that would be giving the politicians too much credit, but if you wanted to ensure that charter schools were more successful than public schools, how would you go about it? Make sure that teachers are bogged down with meetings and paperwork so they can't devote their time and energies to teaching? Take away their bargaining rights so they can't control their working conditions or have due process rights? Give charter schools the unfair advantage of not having to pay for a building or be burdened with the very same rules and testing that you've foisted upon the public schools? Do away with local control of schools? Freeze individual raises for teachers if the school as a whole isn't performing at the level the state sees as satisfactory? Damn! Does kind of look like a conspiracy after all, now doesn't it?

I'm glad I'm out of all that. I'm just a hired gun now but I feel for those that are still in the trenches battling ignorance every day. I'm not talking student ignorance. Ignorance from the politicians, the press and administrators. Some day it will become obvious to those in charge that if you want a good educational system you will hire good people, you will pay them well, you will give them what they need to do the job, and then you will get out of their way. Why would you hire talented people and then create obstacles one after the other to prevent them from using their talents? According to Live Long and Prosper the answer might be as simple as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Someone gets elected to office and they then become an authority on all subjects that come before them. Maybe instead of working all those years to master a trade I should have just been elected to a political office. Instant authority. Would have been a lot easier.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Break's Over

Photo From Here
Spring Break is over and I didn't get dooky done in the shop. However, I did manage to take care of the kitchen project - patched the drywall, got everything painted and got the new ceiling fan installed. Plus I got a couple of loads of gravel delivered and smoothed out in the lane. Did a little general clean-up/fix-up and when I went out for breakfast Saturday morning, we talked a little about going back to Europe (That's Paris in the photo, BTW). So even though I didn't get anything done on the motorcycle front, not a bad week just the same.

I've still got some more painting to do inside the shack. I'll have the Missus decide which room she wants done next and have her pick up the paint. The daytime temps are still just barely above freezing around here - might as well get some more done inside. This week it's get the taxes done. That's always good for bumping up the stress level. Every time I see what their share of my income is and what they piss it away on, I find it more than a little unsettling. I'll just let that go right there.

Made it through St. Patrick's Day without any corned beef, cabbage or new potatoes. The Missus did make up some recipe with apples and cabbage served over the top of mashed potatoes the other day, though. I think she threw a little bacon in hers. Pretty good stuff. I picked up a vegan cookbook from the library the other day. It's got some good recipes in it but I've still got a lot to learn about cooking in general. About the only cooking I did in the past was while camping. I was pretty good at that but I definitely need to expand my repertoire. I'll need to figure out how to work the oven controls before I can do any baking. About the last time I baked anything the oven had a pilot light and just a graduated gas valve. No digital anything. In fact, I remember lighting the broiler with a match if you wanted to cook a steak. Nice thing about the old stoves, they still worked when the power went out.

Golden Gloves starts this week. We've got four guys going down for the first session and two lined up for next week. I won't be able to make it due to teaching commitments but I'll be rooting for them.

You all have a good week. I'm heading off to work so I can put a little something away for that trip to Europe.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


It's with more than a little irony that I post the photo of the peach pie. On the same day I write a post about kids going hungry, it just happens to be National Pie Day. After I finished painting in the kitchen, the Missus made this lovely thing. I need to go easy on it, however. Lots of butter in the crust. One of the worst things about going vegan - no pie crust or pork chops. And to make it even worse, I'm going out for breakfast this morning. Kids are going hungry while I'm going to the AYCE breakfast buffet. 

On a happier note, though pie does make me happy, my new gloves came yesterday. Prior to my retirement, I used to get all my welding gear from the welding supply outfit that serviced the high school. Since I no longer have that option, I decided to give the Caiman gloves a try. I bought a pair of their Revolution welding gloves, a pair of TIG gloves and a pair of winter multi-activity gloves. Those were on sale - looks like they'll be nice for riding the bike, snow shoveling, plowing the drive, etc. All three pair look very well made. Caiman also sells welding jackets, sleeves, aprons, as well as a big variety of gloves at reasonable prices. They shipped them out UPS the same day I ordered them and included a catalog of their gloves/welding items. 

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ho Fame

Photo From Here
Just have to post pictures of sidecar racers - can't help myself. Now for the real reason for the post:

The focus of this post is something much more serious than motorcycle racing and that is, hunger. Jimmy got an e-mail the other day about one of the boxing clubs in Indy. The coach spends up to 4 hours per day driving around, picking kids up and taking them back home from the gym. In addition to teaching them boxing skills, he's the go to guy when they're having problems at school, and he feeds them. The e-mail asked the other clubs if they would consider bringing along some food items on the first night of the Golden Gloves to help out a little bit. 

The Missus and I stopped at Aldi's the other day and picked up a box of groceries to make a little donation from our club. It's not much but it's something. We have kids come to our club who can't afford their passbooks or their monthly fee sometimes, so the club will cover it. We had a fundraiser Monday and we didn't make enough to cover all of the expenses of gym and coaching licences along with five or six trips to Indy for the upcoming Gloves. We're very fortunate to have a building rent free or we'd have to fold up our tent and our guys would have no place to go. We're no different than most clubs catering to amateur boxers. Never enough money to go around but it was never about the money.

I've been hungry before. Sometimes I get busy and work through lunch. On my bicycle trips and long road runs I've worked up an appetite but I've never really been hungry, hungry. I always knew there was something waiting for me when I finished what it was I was doing and got cleaned up. The Missus and I didn't blink an eye about going out to a nice restaurant the other day. It wasn't always that way but I never had to worry about really going hungry. 

I read in the paper the other day about David Rubenstein. He's a billionaire who's buying up things and donating them to the government. He purchased a copy of the Magna Carta for $21 million and returned it to the National Archives. I'm not knocking Mr. Rubenstein. He's committed to doing good works with his wealth. All of the computer billionaires are giving money away as well. The Gates Foundation. The Facebook and Google folks with a combined wealth of about $35 billion give lots of money away. In spite of the generosity of the billionaires and everyone else - church groups, soup kitchens, food pantries, you name it - there are still kids wondering where their next meal is coming from. Kids that are lucky to get some Ramen noodles and Kool-Aid at a boxing gym.

There's been poor people around probably forever. Probably always will be, too. I don't have any answers to cure the problem but if this is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, how can there be hungry kids? I know the boxing community will respond to the e-mail and there will be boxes of food donated. Many of the gyms are dealing with similar issues but they will still dig in and give a little something and Coach Curles will be able to continue with his mission. But that won't stop other kids from going to bed hungry. 

I'm sure most of us could help in some small way. Donate a little time or money to the local food pantry. Earmark a little something in the offering plate to help feed the hungry - there is an organization specifically to Feed the Children. Just do a little something if you can. We'll all be better off for it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Forty-two years and counting. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Break

Photo From Here
According to the caption where I found the picture, this cottage is in Devon, England. Just so happens my paternal grandmother's people came from there. They came to the United States in 1848. They buried an infant child in New York City and then moved west, settling a little north of Morris, Illinois. Grandma was born 50 years later, not too far from where I currently reside. I spent a lot of time tracking down the family history several years ago. Cuzzin Ricky and I took a little road trip over that way and located a few of the graves of the dead ancestors. Don't know why, but it seems good to have a sense of your history. 

On Spring Break this week. Going to be working around the shack a little, try and get a little something done on the 900 also. We've got a fundraiser for the Golden Gloves tonight at the gym, I'll be celebrating my anniversary this week and if it stops raining, I want to get a couple of things done outside. Typical vacation schedule for me if I stick around rather than going somewhere. That's OK, though. Get a few things done now and it'll pay off later when the weather's nice.

Have a good week.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Clamp-It, Jed

From the why didn't I think of this department, check out these pipe building clamps.

Photo From Here
The clamps are available from Ice Engine Works. I've made a few high pipes for the little Ducati's as well as some expansion chambers and car headers. These would have helped tremendously. Looks like they only come in two sizes, though: 1-7/8" & 2". I was usually working with smaller tubing.

It's always a pain in the ass to try and tack pipes together. If you TIG or gas weld, that requires two hands. Doesn't leave much left over to hold things in position on the bike. Even if you try to tack the pieces together on the bench or in the vise, it's still never easy due to all the curved shapes. I usually start with the piece of tube that has the clamping flange on it. Put the gasket in the exhaust port snug it up and start working my way back. Get one piece where I want it, fit the next piece to it, put a couple of witness marks on it, take it off, tack it together and repeat. Hopefully, it's in the right spot after tacking and I can keep going. If not, grind off the tack, make a little adjustment and repeat the process. Time consuming. I can see these clamps being real useful. Just wish I would have thought of it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Think It'll Snow?

Here's a shot out the side window of the shack yesterday about 4:30 in the afternoon. Days like these I miss my old dog. She was crazy about the snow. We used to do a walk in the woods just about any time I had a snow day. As a matter of fact, I had one yesterday. I drove to the college for my Lab Tech gig and got there about 12:50. I took my coat off and was talking to one of the instructors in the Weld Shop and he said they hardly ever close the school. About two minutes after that, in came a security guard and said they were closing the school at 1:00. Nice 50 mile round trip for nothing. I did find out that the notification system I signed up for worked, however. Right after the guard came around I received a text message about the closing and when I got home I had an e-mail on both my school account and my personal account about the closure. Something to be said for that technology, I suppose.

I spent most of the rest of the day doing some long overdue cleaning. I put another bag together for Goodwill  and went through a bunch of ephemera. Since by definition, ephemera is printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved, it certainly begs the question: Why in the hell do I keep this crap? Character flaw, obviously. Now that I've got the waste stream flowing in the right direction, I need to figure out how to keep more from coming in.

I also finished reading Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman yesterday. Having been published in 1985, it's a little dated but everything that is said in the book about television you can transfer to computers and smart phones. Millions of Facebook accounts will certainly bear that out. Or bloggers, for that matter. If you see it on television or read it on the internet, it's not news. It's entertainment. Thanks to Rich for mentioning the book in a comment left a few posts back.

Time to get myself shoveled out. More like fire up the snowblower and the tractor. As long as I can get down the lane, that's about all I need. I was going to go out yesterday and do a little shoveling just about the time my sister-in-law called. She told the wife it's heart attack snow - wet and heavy. No point in arguing that one. It's supposed to get warm this weekend. Might as well let the guy who put it there clean it up.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Kitchen Chores

Photo From Here
Don't know where this is, but it looks like a place where I could winter over. Maybe a little fridge and a hot plate back in a corner someplace. Maybe walk down to a little cafe for some fresh air and a bit of conversation occasionally but otherwise just read and read and read.

Instead of climbing all over the stacks looking for a good read, I spent the weekend climbing up and down the ladder painting the kitchen. Normally one would paint the ceiling first but the Missus was thinking maybe paint the ceiling the same color as the walls but wasn't sure how dark it was going to be. I'm thinking it needs to be white, but to be honest, if it's done I'll be happy regardless of the color. It's hard to tell from the photo but there's a ledge over the top of the cabinets that normally hold a bunch of her antiques. She had a piece of rope light to run the length of the ledge to accent/backlight her treasures, so I got that put up as well. I've got a little drywall touch-up to do on another wall, paint the ceiling and install a new ceiling fan but I made a pretty good dent in it. As soon as she decides about the paint and the fan, I'll finish it up. Ball's in her court now.

Giving mid-terms this week at the college. I've got every thing ready to go already, so it should be a pretty easy week. I'll have to grade some papers but not near the quantity I used to do at the high school. Hopefully it'll start to warm up soon. We've had more winter weather the last week or so than most of the rest of the season. I'll be out in the shop soon enough working on the 900. I've got Spring Break next week. Should be able to get a whole bunch of something done then.

Just ran the Preview to scope out things out before posting and some stuff came up highlighted for advertisements. Don't know if it'll show up in the post, but if it does, you can believe I had nothing to do with it. You can also believe it'll probably be next to impossible for me to figure out how to get rid of it. I hate to bitch about something that costs me nothing but the world does not need more advertising. 

Have a good week.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Frame Modifications

Surly posted a comment the other day on my Superbike post about roadracing frame geometry being much different than the drag racers I used to fiddle with. Short answer, yes. Long answer, yes, but let's discuss it.

Part of the Frame Building Library Collection
I'm not sure why, but ever since I learned how to weld I've been a student of the art of frame building. I always thought it would be cool to be the go to guy for a custom racing frame. There are guys who have made a living doing that. The first name that comes to my mind is Rickman. They made dirt bike frames and road going frames. Beautiful craftsmanship, fillet brazed and nickle plated.

Rickman CR 900
If you're talking drag racing, Kosman; flat tracking, Champion and C&J; roadracing & custom, Harris, Seeley, Bakker, Bimota, Spondon, North, and many others. Lots of chopper builders out there. I've never been a big fan of choppers but always liked the look of the bikes created by Arlen Ness. And there are more than a few dabblers out there who have made one or two.

I've made a couple of complete frames over the years. I made a duplicate frame for a Triumph Trident that a guy was roadracing. I made the thing out of chrome-moly to make it lighter and stronger but he could still pass through inspection as a stocker once it was painted. Mostly, however, I did drag racing stuff. I raked frames, gusseted them up and made extended swingarms. I would have liked to have done more with  roadracing but the opportunity never really arose.

Drag racing is pretty simple in theory and in chassis design, at least compared to road racing. Frame alterations usually are designed to get the bike lower, get it to hook up and keep it pointed straight. Other than overcoming the tendency of the chain to pull the wheel sideways when launching, most of the force applied is in a straight line forward once the tendency to wheelie is overcome.

Road racing is a whole bunch different. You have to contend with both acceleration and braking forces and get it to go around corners. Here we're looking at both art and science. The Cycle article points out many of the changes made to get the Vetter bike to corner. The steering head was replaced and gusseted. The stock Kaw steering head is thin and is fitted with ball bearings. If you bang it down hard after a wheelie, the bearing races become dented and the neck distorts. The Vetter racer was fitted with tapered rollers in the new neck and was braced to prevent flex from cornering forces. The frame work was done by none other than Rob North. I assume this is the same Rob North famous for the three cylinder Triumph and BSA frames.

Rob North BSA Frame - Braze Welded. Typical British Construction Method
My bike frame came from a guy who ran it into a parked car. Not only did he bend up the neck, he hit it hard enough to bend the front down tubes. I put it on my frame jig and put on a new neck with tapered rollers, braced up the front of the frame and changed things around a little on the downtubes to compensate for the non-factory bends.

The stock Kawasaki engine mounts allow the engine to move around a little in the frame. The plates are about 3/16" thick and the bolts are all a loose fit in everything they pass through. Like the Vetter frame, I made up some new plates out of heavier material and ream fit larger bolts. Now the engine is a stressed member of the frame rather than jumping around in the frame. The Vetter bike also changed the swingarm pivot bolt to take all the slop out of it and they strengthed the swingarm. I didn't see the need to go with a larger pivot bolt but I made a rectangular section swingarm and I'm going to bridge the bottom.

The Vetter bike ran a WM-7 rear wheel and a slick. My tire now measures 4-1/2" wide. The slick was probably 6". That by itself really changes the loading on the frame. When I was dragracing I had a big rim on the back and ran a Goodyear roadracing slick low on air so it would have a nice footprint. When I put it on the street bike with the sidecar I mounted up a 140 width Metzler and it looked huge. Baby size tire now but that's what I'm shooting for on the rear again. A 140/70-18 should fit under the bike with no further modification other than a wider rim. No offset sprocket required and it will look like it should have back in 1978.

The Vetter bike has the top shock mounts moved forward over four inches. This used to be common practice on endurance racers. Shock absorber technology wasn't what it is now and this was before mono-shocks and linkages. This allows a more compliant ride as well as more wheel travel. This in turn gives you more freedom in setting the ride height and helping with weight transfer under braking. I'm thinking I don't need to get that elaborate with my bike. If I was building a replica, yes. I'm planning on a little more hooligan/streetfighter than pure Superbike.

If you look back a couple of posts and see the picture of Pridmore putting the bike over on to the points cover, the article shows how they shortened that up to allow more clearance for just such manuevers and the removal of the alternator to allow the same type of cornering shenanigans on the other side. Professional rider on a closed course - don't try this at home. Pridmore also raced sidecars during his career, as seen in the photo below, and as I mentioned to Surly when I responded to his comment, I once had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Pridmore and talked a little sidecar racing. Nice guy.

Pridmore Pilots Rig On The Isle of Man

Summing up, yep. Roadracing frame building considerations are  much different from drag racing. Other than bridging the swingarm, I've already made most of the same alterations as the Vetter frame (this project has been around almost since the time that article came out). I need to build the pipe, bridge the swingarm, widen the rear wheel and then most of the fabrication work will be done. Just mechanical and paint after that. Lots simpler than building a world beater Superbike.

Friday, March 1, 2013

No Scantron Required

Click to Enlarge
I saw this at Schools Matter by way of Live Long and Prosper. I can honestly say that in all the years I taught high school, never did I administer a test using Scantron answer sheets. I did however get a chuckle out of being in the workroom when someone was feeding a stack of them through the grading machine. Every wrong answer triggers a click in the machine. Some of the tests sounded like machine gun fire when they ran through there. That would be the case with the one above.

Live Long and Prosper has some interesting things posted the last couple of days. I've been trying to stay away from too much educational mumbo-jumbo but every once in a while I backslide and check out what others are saying these days. Basically, the insanity continues. There's a link there that will take you to a letter written by a kindergarten teacher in Vegas that expresses the views of most teachers, I would guess, quite nicely.

Me, I'm glad to be out of the fugging  (saw that in the Missus' Scrabble dictionary and seemed a good fit). I go to the college, I teach welding, they gain skills, and then we do it again next week. About as pure and simple as it can be. As long as they show up and put in the effort, very effective, as well. Easy to measure, no Scantron required.