Thursday, August 29, 2013


I was prowling through my blog list yesterday and came across some info on the Milwaukee MakerFest at Handverker. First of all it amazes me all the stuff that Frankie Flood and his students are into on that site -  motorcycles, bicycles, VW's, and hot rods just like I am - and then there is all the high tech machining, printing and extruding creating artistic and functional items of all stripes.  I know very little about this new high tech stuff but what I do know is that this is the future of manufacturing.

With Maker Faires and Maker Spaces popping up the world over, (there's one in Rome in October), and the cost of college skyrocketing, maybe it's time for a new look at the traditional college model. At the community college where I'm currently employed, as near as I can tell, other than some digital photography and printing, we don't make anything. That's right. We make nothing. Since there are other campus locations throughout the state, I'm sure somewhere they're making something but maybe not. In the lab where I spend a few hours every week in my role as lab logistics technician, there are trainers for a variety of disciplines - hydraulics, pneumatics, electricity, electronics, etc. - but it looks like the main focus here is to turn out technicians for the local power company rather than making anything. I suppose that certainly is in keeping with the mission of a community college but from my high school teaching experience, I know people want to make things and they learn more if they are allowed to do just that.

Let us suppose for a moment that Shop Teacher Bob opens his own college. We'll call it the Shop Teacher Bob Maker School and dedicate it solely to the making of cool shit - might even want to make that as the motto, in fact. Anyway, have a two year course of study culminating in a maker degree. Keep the curriculum loosey-goosey and like Hillsdale College, don't accept any federal funds so the focus can remain on what really matters, giving the students a custom tailored education that allows them to make things. All types of things. Beautiful things, practical things, wooden things, plastic things, metal things, Steampunky things. Incorporate some old school skills like blacksmithing/metalsmithing, maybe some woodworking with hand tools - a nice blend of folk arts and CNC.

Think about it. A nice Maker Space/Tech Shop with a big garden. Maybe follow the Putney School model or the college in Berea. Work for your supper/tuition rather than a big ass student loan that will be hanging around your neck like a dead albatross you spent 40 grand for. Focus on the things you want to work on along side other creative individuals doing the same. Isn't that what Bell Labs used to do? Lots of potential for cross pollination of ideas. A hands-on approach but so much more. Granted there wouldn't be a football team but I suppose we could set up a couple of heavy bags and have the students design and build a few bicycles so we all get a little exercise instead of just the gridiron squad.

If one of you decides to start just such a school, let me know if you need a lab tech. I know just the guy.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Making Cider

I cranked up the ole Whiz-Bang apple grinder yesterday and yes, by golly, it is in fact a whiz-bang. It makes short work of grinding up enough apple to make a batch of cider/juice. I'm glad I made the pusher stick before trying this rig. It worked perfectly. Just the right size to poke the apples down into the throat of the garbage disposal that does the grinding. The electric motor seems to have more than enough horsepower for the job. I only made a little more than a gallon but it only took a couple of minutes to grind them up. Two minor drawbacks to the operation, however. First, the stuff coming out of the chute looks and feels just like puke. Thank goodness it smells like apple juice or that project would have been over before it even started. Second, it's a little tough to get the inside of the disposal clean after the grinding operation. Pouring water through it after hosing it down well with the sprayer seems to work.

The press worked fairly well. There is no swivel on the end of the screw, so everything wants to walk around a bit when you crank down on it. Nothing serious but a swivel like on the end of a C-clamp would be a nice touch. Also it needs some casters on it. I welded some nuts on the channel iron legs for adjusting screws but dragging it across the floor is like fingernails on the chalkboard. Some locking casters would make it easier to move and eliminate the screech factor. The nuts for the adjusters are 1/2-13 thread. I might get lucky and find some cheapies at Harbor Freight with that thread.

The apple juice/cider tastes real good. Just sweet enough but with a little tang to it. I'm a little confused with the terminology of cider. The stuff I've bought in the past, I thought, was just apple juice like I made today but without all the filtration and pasteurization. Keep it in a cool place and it'll naturally ferment a little to develop a little bite to it. To others, cider is almost synonymous with wine which some call Apple Jack. Apple Jack was made in the past by freezing the fermented cider and removing the slush on top to increase the potency. Then there's apple brandy, and calvados, a fancy-ass brandy, both of which require distillation. I'm going to take a shot at making some apple wine, meaning I'm going to follow the same basic steps as I did with the peach wine. We'll see how it goes. I'm still not sure exactly what I'm doing, but this isn't the first time I've found myself in that situation.

I've got another variety of apples and peaches to try out. I'll make a batch of each and see what I like best. Might be, all of this will be for naught but I'm enjoying myself, so what the hell. Better than letting the fruit rot on the ground. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Four Miles but No Pork

Shop Teacher Bob, the vegan, and his vegetarian sidekick did the Pork Fest 4-miler yesterday. I haven't been running too much due to a sore back but I did about 50/50 running and walking. I could have run a bigger percentage but I felt good and wanted to continue to do so, so I left it at that. Usually no matter how slow I go, I'm still way ahead of a bunch of people. I think I ended up 107 out of 109 - that's a little different. Percentage wise, probably the prettiest bunch at any race I've ever attended. That's different also. Lots of very attractive women in the race and cute girls working the course. Most everyone seemed to be fit and tan. Might be why I was just two people ahead of the sweep truck. Tan but not really fit.

But maybe the most attractive thing I saw was a restored milk truck that was on hand for the parade - all about priorities, people. I did a post once before on trucks that featured a Divco milk truck - you can check it out here. This baby was painted up in the colors of a local dairy that's been around for years and years. And for the icing on the cake, as we were leaving, four or five semi tractors were coming into town to join the parade with one of those being an old Mack that was chromed up one side and down the other. Mirrors, stacks, fenders - you name it - this rig had it all. A B-61 Mack with the Thermodyne diesel and 5 x 4 trans might even be more fun than the Jaguar F-type. Who needs paddle shifters when you can double-clutch?

I welded up a little crack in a pair of laundry tubs that the wife sold at her garage sale after I got home. No, it wasn't a warranty job. She borrowed them back so our niece could use them. She's having an outside wedding with a country theme and wants to use them to keep drinks on ice. The aluminum is paper thin and, of course, corroded. I didn't have any aluminum cleaner, so it was file, wire brush and Scotch Brite the area. That doesn't really get down into the crack, however, and aluminum doesn't want to flow together, but rather, it wants to separate and ball up along the edges turning a crack into a hole. And as thin as this stuff is, a little hole can easily become a big hole. I put a series of tacks along the crack, filed the tacks down and then washed a bead over them. I also went over the crack from the inside of the tub just to smooth things up a little. Maybe not the prettiest job I've ever done, but it holds water.

I transferred the wine from the primary fermenter (plastic bucket) to the secondary fermentation vessel (glass jug) the other night. The juice is bubbling away, so the yeast is still working on the sugar and the peach juice. According to the directions, 2-3 weeks in this bottle, then siphon it into another bottle, check the specific gravity and if all's right with the world, bottle it and wait a minimum of a couple months. After that, start drinking. I've got apples starting to fall off the tree so I can clean up the plastic bucket and the fruit bag and start a batch of apple wine next. I've also got another variety of peaches that I might try. If I can get my grape vines under control, maybe a batch of grape wine next year. With a little luck, maybe a grape pie this year. While I've quit eating butter, I make exceptions if it's in one of the Missus' pie crusts.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Things I'd Buy If

If I didn't already have way too many things with wheels underneath them, that is.

I take a different, less traveled route to work when I ride my motorcycle. I came across this 1960 El Camino parked in someone's front yard out on one of the back roads. The phone number and price are barely readable, having been faded by the sun, so it must have been sitting there for awhile. On a road with little traffic and a price tag of $4,500, it'll probably be sitting there a while longer too.

The '56 Pontiac Chieftain looks to a better bargain than the El Camino. Asking $3,000 and looks to be in fairly good shape. However, a restored El Camino would be just the thing for retrieving a BSA motorcycle when it leaves you stranded along the side of the road.

Here's the one that really grabbed me. 1953 F600 Ford truck complete with the original flat head V- 8. The sign said $2,500 but the owner said he'd take $2,000. He said it ran good, the hydraulics for raising the bed worked and other than the obvious rust damage, the only thing it needed was a rear brake cylinder and to be driven a little more.Of course, if you started patching panels and were planning on doing it up proud, there would be a lot more than that, starting with some new skins. The old tires have cracks almost as deep on the sidewalls as they do on the tread. The truck would look good with a fresh coat of red paint and some chrome West Coast mirrors. A truck like this would be just the ticket if a guy had a small acreage and needed to haul material once in a while. Actually, I considered doing just that a few years ago and decided to build a trailer instead. One of the few times I did the practical thing and after seeing this old Ford and a couple others over the ensuing years, I do have a slight tinge of regret. I've always had a soft spot for old trucks. The trailer is a nice one but I don't get a warm and fuzzy from it even though I made it myself.

And here's a couple of things I don't have to think about buying because I'm going to be there working a corner. These are tickets for our upcoming fundraising show for the boxing gym. It's already a sellout three weeks before the event. These two are for TVI and his son if they want them, if not, there's a waiting list of people looking for tickets. This is the first show other than the in-house shows we've held. I hope things go well. Jimmy's put a lot of work into organizing and promoting the event. Not easy running an amateur boxing gym. Not profitable either. This should help.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I finished up the creeper the other day - looks OK and works the same. I think I'm going to rub down the top surface with a Scotch Brite pad or steel wool and give it one more coat of varnish, however. It's plenty serviceable but another coat will make it a little smoother and durable. I still need to make the head pad. I've got some vinyl and a hunk of foam around here that will probably do me fine. Since it was made from leftovers, I've got less than ten bucks invested in the creeper and unless I run it over with a car, it should last me for as long as I'm going to be crawling around under vehicles. Finished dimensions are 19" x 40", by the way.

A buddy stopped by the other day with this door from his old Triumph TR3. I've done a lot of metal work on the car in years gone by and last I talked to him he was working on the drivetrain so I figured the body work was pretty much finished. Apparently not, judging by the bottom of the door. I should have flipped the door around when I took the photo so the bottom edge wouldn't have been in the shadow but if you look close you can see a notch cut out. He decided rather than just patching in where the notch is, replace the whole bottom edge about an inch up. If it would have been most anyone else I would have just told him no, I don't do that anymore. But this dude and I go way back and I'll fix him up. He's in no hurry either, so that's a plus. I want to get some welding done on the VW before it gets cold, so while I've got the tools out, maybe get a little floor pan action taken care of on the bug. And since I now have a creeper, maybe patch up the heater channel as well.

The daughter-in-law sent home a couple of jars of canned goods the other day - one of vanilla peaches and one peach pie filling. Pretty good deal, there. She picks the fruit and sends me back some finished product. And the Missus, who just might be the world's greatest pie baker, has pledged a peach pie when the weather cools down. I'm going to pick some tomatoes, drop those off with the daughter-in-law and see what comes back. I've got two different types of tomatoes so she should be able to come up with something good.

The batch of peach wine is still going. I found out, like most hobbies, that I needed a couple of other items to make things go efficiently, so I got those ordered. Still under 100 bucks on everything and I've got enough fixin's to make several more gallons of wine, which is exactly what I plan to do. As soon as the first batch leaves the primary fermenter, I'll either make another batch of peach or try some apple wine. I've got a big table down the basement I'm working off of. As long as I label everything with all the pertinent poop, I should be OK. Once the juice is siphoned off the primary and into the glass jug, mostly it's just a waiting game from that point on. I'm just hoping it's drinkable when it's all said and done. I'm not much of a oenophile, but I would like to be able to make four or five gallons every year that's at least a couple of steps up from vinegar.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jeepers, Creepers

I decided to build myself a new creeper a while back. I had a nice wooden one that I had bought from Montgomery Wards some time, probably late 60's - early 70's. Like Sears and J.C. Penneys, "Monkey Wards" had their own brand of tools - Powr-Kraft - that you could order in from the catalog store downtown. I had it for years and when I moved to my present location I didn't have any place with decent concrete so I took the creeper to school and it disappeared. I bought a plastic one from a yard sale to replace the wooden one and eventually the wheels quit turning and got flat spotted. I replaced that one with a cheapie from Harbor Freight and some knucklehead decided to try skateboarding with it and that took care of that. Since I'm no longer going to be sharing my creeper with the high school boys I figured I'd make a new one like I used to have.

The top photo shows the donor pallet that I started with courtesy of Surly. I used the Sawzall to cut the nails in half and then punched the remnants out of the slats with a nail set. The pallets are usually assembled with spiral nails spit out of a nail gun and they're just about impossible to take apart without destroying unless you saw them apart. So after salvaging the wood I wanted,  I ripped the slats to width on the table saw and then put the necessary rabbets in with the router. I also rounded the top edges of the long side stringers with the router.

Here's the frame after the glue-up. I sanded the rough surface on the top sides of the boards with the belt sander - a planer would've been nice.  You can see the casters in the background. The old creepers used to have the metal wheels that were angled. This one will have the cheapie Harbor Freight casters. I think they were a buck a piece on sale. They're 2" diameter and a fairly hard rubber. They should roll well on the smooth concrete floor of the new barn.

Here's a shot of the creeper after I cut the plywood for the bottom panel but prior to varnishing everything. I put a coat of spar varnish on it and I'll check it out this morning and decide if I should put two coats on or not. I bought some #10 screws the other day for bolting on the casters but they're just a little short so I need to return them and get some one size longer. If it rolls around nicely on the floor, I'll make up a headrest for it.

I also got started on my first batch of wine yesterday. The fixins are in the plastic bucket and awaiting the yeast packet that I'll add this afternoon. According to the instructions, the must stays in the plastic bucket for just a couple of days and then it gets siphoned off into the one gallon glass bottle for fermentation. That process gets repeated once again after the specific gravity reaches a certain point and then it can be bottled. I need to get some more of the one gallon bottles and airlocks and then I can have peaches, apples and persimmons all perking along at the same time. It only took about an hour to pick, clean and cut the peaches up to prepare the must. The remaining steps are not very time consuming either, so I may have made the right decision to become a vintner. Of course that's assuming the stuff will be drinkable when the time comes. I'm guessing the answer will come some time about February.

I start school again this week. It was a rather short vacation but I can't really complain about this job. Looks like the temperatures are going to go up this week, glad I got some of the outside stuff done. Now that I'll have a creeper, maybe I'll get back to work on the VW. Lots to do still but working in the woodshop on the creeper was fun. 

Have a good week.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Little Whine/Wine

This from Bookpuddle:

Make your educational laws strict and your criminal ones can be gentle; but if you leave youth its liberty you will have to dig dungeons for ages.
-- Michel de Montaigne --

Might be something to that. Of course, getting things turned around now would be nigh on impossible. However, if you look at the number of people incarcerated in this country compared to other countries you could probably make a link from lax education laws to overcrowded prisons. Or maybe it's not so much lax as it is boring. I used to hear that quite a bit - rarely about the shop classes but the academic ones. And I would be inclined to agree in large part.

And in keeping with the theme, I went to the meeting at the college Thursday night. While not necessarily boring, after attending meetings at educational institutions for 37 years, let's just say that I'm a little jaded and it's going to take a lot to hold my interest. Food was decent and we got out a little early, though. I give it high marks for that. Plus, this was only the second meeting I've gone to. Two meetings - two years. High marks there as well.

Saw this at Handverker. If you look close you can see on the label where it says Personal CNC. This thing has a swing a little bigger than my old South Bend lathe so it would be the right size for most anything I currently do or would want to do if I had my own Personal CNC lathe. Don't know what this thing is going to cost as it's in Beta testing now, but if I should hit the lottery, in addition to the new Jaguar, I'll be placing an order. Probably get one of their CNC mills as well. The college has a machining center in the lab where I work but it hasn't run since I've been there. I heard Thursday they're planning on moving it to another campus where they teach machining. I was hoping they were going to do something with it and depending on the schedule, I'd take the class. I've done a little CNC milling. Fun stuff.

Since I haven't hit the lottery yet, I spent considerably less money than that required for a Personal CNC or a Jaguar F Type and bought a wine making kit for making fruit wines. I decided rather than having lots of peaches rotting on the ground, I'd try making a couple of gallons of peach wine. Didn't need another project but this was part of the original master plan for my retirement years. Might make a good antidote to faculty meetings. In addition to my trees, I talked to a guy who has a few peach trees and he's lousy with them as well. Since there's no shortage of fruit, might as well give it a go. If all goes well, follow it up with a batch or two of apple or maybe even some persimmon wine.

Weekend's here with more beautiful weather. Life is good. Better still with peach wine.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

No Thank You

I got a phone call yesterday morning at 8:00 o'clock sharp. It was the principal of a local high school wanting to know if I was interested in teaching welding part-time for them. I didn't laugh or tell him anything about it taking a gun to my head to make me teach at a high school again, but I think if I had to choose, I might take the job holding the sign in the median for the pizza parlor first. Actually, I think I'd just sign up for Social Security, which I've been thinking about doing anyway.

If you sign up for Social Security before full retirement age they reduce your benefits, of course. In my case the difference between age 62 and age 66 is just about $500.00 per month. I'll be 63 in a couple of weeks so the difference has shrunk already but now I need to start thinking about all the details. If I make more than $15,000.00 in a year they take some of the money back. If I die in the next couple of years, I'll get nothing back for all the years I contributed. For a 63 year old who has already had a heart attack and lost a brother to cancer, what's the chances of making it 'til 80? What's going to happen when Obamacare kicks in? Will my insurance premiums go down? They already went up $300/month in anticipation of the change. Lots to consider here. I will say this, however. In my case, with a decent pension, trying to decide this issue is more a luxury than a necessity. If I had to live strictly off Social Security I'd be in a serious pickle. My health insurance premiums are just about what I'd be earning on Social Security. Not a good situation at all and unfortunately, there are a lot of elderly folks in just that situation. My advice to all of you, start planning for retirement sometime in the next minute unless you've already got a real good plan. If that's the case, come up with plan "B". Waving the sign for the pizza parlor when it's 20 degrees outside is not a good fall-back plan, by the way.

I hope the principal finds someone to teach the welding class. While it damn sure ain't gonna be me, it's crucial that schools continue to offer vocational classes. I ran into a former student at the gas station the other day and he is not only welding but he's teaching apprentices how to weld. He thanked me for putting up with him when he was in school but obviously his training paid off. He's using his skills and will be able to retire comfortably. He was never saddled with big student loan debt, either. Which, by the way, was the subject of a little article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Seems that a lot of young people can no longer start a business of their own. It's tough to be an entrepreneur when you've already got a big student loan you're obligated to pay off starting six months after graduation. Maybe in addition to finding welding teachers, the schools need to have an economics class that points out the reality of taking on large amounts of personal debt and not saving for the future. In my case, I owe my mother a huge debt, in that I heeded her financial advice and never accumulated any.

Another beautiful day in the 70's here. Time to head outside and do a little something. Save your money, eat right, get some exercise and enjoy life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Up Date

Just about ready to make cider. I got the outlet pipe, hopper and push stick done for the Whiz bang apple grinder as seen in the top photo, and in the bottom photo, the pressure plate for the press. I'm going to order a bag for the press from Lehman's rather than using cheesecloth to line the basket. 

If you're not familiar with Lehman's, you're missing out. They're located in the heart of Amish country in Kidron, Ohio and that's who they cater to, along with other folks who are still using the older technologies. They've got everything you need to live off the grid or preserve food or prep for the coming apocalypse. Some of their products are a little expensive but if you need it, they've probably got it. If you're ever over that way, it's a stop worth making just to browse the store, especially if you're a do-it-yourselfer/tinkerer like I am. The Missus and I were over that way a few years back and went to the store. We also went to Warther Carving in nearby Dover - another must visit place. Mooney Warther was a genius and a craftsman with no equal. If you can't get there in person, check out the link to the Warther Museum. Absolutely incredible.

In the education news, Tony Bennett was in the NWI Times on Sunday again. It's nice to see the poster boy for education reform blow up on the front page. Especially when, as far as I'm concerned at least, his reforms were going down the wrong path. The weekend Wall Street Journal had a feature on M. Night  Shyamalan. For those of you who aren't familiar with that name, like myself, he's a filmmaker that just wrote a soon to be published book on education reform. According to the WSJ: 
"Over the course of his research, Mr. Shyamalan found data debunking many long-held theories. For example, he found no evidence that teachers who had gone through masters programs improved students' performance; nor did he find  any confirmation that class size really mattered. What he did discover is plenty of evidence that, in the absence of all-star teachers, schools were most effective when they put in place strict, repetitive classroom regimens."
Mr. Shyamalan's book I Got Schooled  should be a good read. I'll have to dig up a copy when it comes out.

And on a related reading note, one of the tree trimming superheroes the other day mentioned the drummer from Rush, Neil Peart, and his riding a motorcycle and bicycle from here to Hell and back and writing about the journeys. I did the Google search and his web site has several books available and other info that looks pretty interesting. If you're into adventure traveling - something like a bicycle trip across Africa - you might want to check him out. I plan searching out a couple of the books. Doing pretty well on my book reading this year, by the way. I've gone through 40 so far, making my goal of fifty for the year well within reach. 

Last but certainly not least, Happy Birthday to the Missus - 29 again for the 34th time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Super Heroes

I haven't been posting too much about interesting projects of late. However, while maybe not all that interesting, I've been getting stuff done that needs to be done so I can get back to the fun projects. Stuff like this:

The tree trimmers were here yesterday and took down two trees and trimmed up a big oak that had grown out enough that it was getting into the roof on the house. I thought about getting a new chainsaw and tackling the two trees that were coming down myself, no way I was going to try the one interfering with the roof, however. I made the smart move and called the pro and this morning everything is done. I've still got some clean up to do but that was part of the deal. The guy in the bucket in the photo is a former student and we did a bunch of work for his dad at the school over the years. He cut me a righteous deal and replaced the photo eye on the big yard light while he was here as well. Tree trimming superhero, that boy. I talked to my cousin over the weekend and he's going to take most of the wood. As soon as I can get everything cleaned up, I'll put in a fence for the puppy. Like always, one thing done but another to take it's place.

I don't know how I'm ever going to get all the shit done around here that needs to be done but I'm thinking maybe a cape would help.

Photo From Here

Probably not - looked good on Evel, though. Maybe Surly should get the cape. He's the one with the Harley Ferguson.

I'm going out to put the finishing touches on the pressure plate for the cider press. The apples will be ripe soon. Be nice to sit around sipping cider in the cool evenings with or without a cape.

Keep on a rockin' superheroes!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Only Two Things That Money Can't Buy

Partial Bounty For the Day

Yesterday's lunch picked straight from the garden.

Fresh veggies light on the salt, heavy on the pepper. Lots of vitamins but lacking on the protein level. Instead of the crackers, a piece of good dark rye bread would have been good. I topped it off with a couple of mission figs and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert. The tank goes empty pretty quick without any meat or cheese on the plate but as long as there's an abundance of veggies to be had, just slice another tomato. I'm definitely going to look into extending the growing season - either some type of cover for the Square Foot Garden boxes, a cold frame or a small greenhouse. The feast or famine schedule with the garden just doesn't get it. A big yellow bell pepper at the grocery the other day was $1.79. That's each. With a little creativity, I should be able to have a nice variety of fresh veggies at least five or six months out of the year.

Give it spin. Probably be the best two minutes and forty-four seconds you'll spend today.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Education Reform, My Ass

Yesterday's NWI Times reported that yes, indeed, former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett did in fact alter the school accountability grades. This will require the grades to be re-figured for all the schools, however, a law requiring a new grading system  takes effect Nov. 15 which will complicate things further still. So the citizens of the Hoosier State have an educational accountability mess on their hands.

At the national level things don't seem to be much better. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday discussed the setbacks to minority education under the Obama administration.

During the Clinton-Bush era (1999-2008), white 9-year-olds gained 11 points in math, African-American student performance rose by 13 points and Hispanic student leaped by 21 points. In reading, the gains by white 9-year-olds went up seven points, black performance jumped by 18 points and Hispanic student achievement climbed 14 points.
Those remarkable gains came to an end after the Obama administration took charge. Between 2008-12, gains by African-Americans at age 9 were just two points in each subject, while Hispanics gained one point in reading and nothing in math. Whites gained one point in reading and two points in math.

So far the Obama administration has granted waivers to 40 states, allowing them to be free from the accountability of No Child Left Behind. This is the law that says all students regardless of their race or ethnicity will be proficient by 2014. So at the end of this school year - the one that starts next week for my former school district - everyone should be reading and computing at grade level. That's going to have to be one helluva sprint to the finish for that to happen.

I've never been a fan of No Child Left Behind but if the figures cited above are true, it has done some good along with all the havoc it wrought. But if 40 of the 50 states saw that they weren't going to be able to meet the standards by the end of the upcoming school year and opted out, will the remaining ten meet the goals? Will everyone in those ten states be proficient? According to the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece:  "There isn't anything positive to report about student achievement at the high-school level, since neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration placed much emphasis on student testing after eight grade. At age 17, whites or blacks didn't gain as much  as a single point per year either from 1999-2008 or during the past four years." Oops. Looks like maybe it didn't do that much after all.

From the political standpoint, here's my take. The right wing politicians say we need more accountability and testing, even if that means we have to cook the books a little to make the numbers come out right. The left wing politicians look at what the outcome is liable to be as the finish line approaches and give waivers to 80% of the contestants. They replace No Child Left Behind with Race to the Top, which I'm sure will be successful because they're willing to throw four billion dollars at the problem.

From an educational standpoint, here's my take on it. Come up with a list of reasonable outcomes that every student should be able to accomplish. Break everything down into small modules. If a kid hasn't mastered fourth grade math but has mastered everything else, why have him repeat all of fourth grade? Or, as is more likely to happen, pass him on even though he can't do fourth grade math. If you go to a trade school to be a mechanic, if you don't pass fuel injection class, they don't make you take transmission class over again. Seems simple enough.

Hire good teachers, pay them well and try to keep them. If half the teachers find a new line of work before five years goes by, there is something very wrong. Any other industry with that kind of turnover would be pulling their hair out looking for a solution. How about this as an example: Next week I have to attend a meeting at the college. It's scheduled for three hours in length but refreshments will be served and I'm going to get paid to attend. Paid to attend a meeting - how 'bout them apples?

Finally, while there needs to be oversight at the classroom level, that's going to require good leadership. That will probably be the hardest part of the equation. If you put knuckleheads in charge, why would you be surprised when someone who has invested a minimum of four years getting an education degree and is willing to start a job that pays only slightly above the poverty level, decides to drag up because they can't take the added stress of working for a bozo on top of attending meetings, wiping noses, staying late grading papers, and all the rest?

In summary, the issue is obviously more complicated than what my simple solutions will take care of. The point is, these are changing times. The school model needs to change with it. Recognize that today's students are not the same as those of fifty years ago and change the system to better serve the clientele. Encourage and support the creativity of the teachers, rather than stifling it. There's a lot that could be done but it won't happen with the interference of the self-serving politicians who come up with grand plans they think will work because they said it will. Educational excellence can't be legislated. It requires excellent teachers, treated fairly and compensated accordingly.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Yesterday was one of those days where I got a lot done but didn't have much to show for it. I took Larry Joe Cocker to the vet in the morning to get his surgery taken care of - snipped, chipped and de-dewclawed. The poor little guy will probably never want to go for a ride in my truck again after all that.

After dropping him off I fixed the garage door, did some shopping, got a haircut, ran to the hardware store, put a couple miles in on the bike for a warm up, then ran  a little bit before the rain came in again and baby sat the pooch later in the evening.  

Going to work on the Whiz-Bang apple grinder a little today. It's all done except for an outlet pipe and a hopper for the top. I picked up the pipe yesterday with the run to the hardware store. They didn't have exactly what I was looking for but I picked up something I think will work. If you want to check out the construction of the grinder you can check out an earlier post here. I've got oodles of apples this year, so no better time to try and make some cider. I also need to make a pressure plate for the cider press - probably work on that today as well. 

Making cider will take care of all the excess apples - I might dry a few again this year- but I need to figure out what to do with the peaches. I still like the idea of making some peach wine but I don't know squat about wine making. Maybe just concentrate on doing the cider this year and work into the wine making next year. When the Missus and I were out west earlier this summer, we picked up some wine in the Amana Colonies. They had all types of available - peach, blackberry, rhubarb. Can't see that it would be all that tough to do. A little instruction and some equipment. Seems to me like it would be a good way to preserve the harvest.

Supposed to be another beautiful day. Be a great day to work on things.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Just Another Day in Paradise

I found this at Hot Rodz & Pin Ups. It's not the type of thing I normally think of when I think hot rods but I dig it.

This one came from the same place. If I'm not mistaken this was a Frank Kurtis creation. Not only did Kurtis build midget/sprint/Indy cars, he also built a few customs. 

If you want to see some good looking hot rods and motorcycles (and some nice pin-ups), check out Hod Rodz & Pin Ups. Both of these photos are atypical of what you'll find there but are the kind of thing that I prefer.

Spent the beautiful weekend outside mostly. When you have a "country estate", it requires some regular groundskeeping. The weeds and scrub trees are constantly trying to take over so it requires a combination of weed whacking. spraying, chopping, pulling and burning to take back what is rightfully mine. Actually that would be ours but since I'm the one who did all of the heavy lifting on this job and I'm telling the story, it's mine. At least now the ownership is just the Missus and I with no bank involved. We got the official paper work from the bank the other day. No more house payments! That feels good. And on this beautiful, cool summer morning, the place looks a little better as well. Unfortunately, with the weeds knocked down, the focus is back on the shack and the need for painting. 

I've got a little vacation now before the fall semester starts. I'm not making any plans, just going to play it by ear and see what gets done. Usually the weather this time of year is hot and dry. Not the case lately - cool temps and rain pretty much on a regular basis. That means I'm still cutting grass every few days, but a small concession for these idyllic conditions. Looks like more of the same for this week again. In fact as soon as the dew is off the grass, I'm heading out to mow and then get a little run in before the rain comes in this afternoon.

Have a good week.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Welding Helmet

Broke down and ordered a new welding helmet. It's a Miller Titanium 1600i. It's the passive, rather than the auto-darkening model. As I mentioned before, I'm not really a fan of the auto-darkening helmets for a couple of reasons, but I don't think I'm going to regret going with this one. On the plus side, the headgear adjusts nicely, the grinding shield is really big and bright and it takes the standard 4x5 filter plate and cover plate on the back side of the filter plate. The downside is that it requires a proprietary outside cover plate and grinding shield. It's also a little heavy. When you flip open the front you notice the weight pulling the helmet down. In my case it won't be a problem because it's going to be the helmet I keep at the college and I won't be be wearing it eight hours a day. If I was still doing a lot of semi-trailer repair and crawling around between the tandems, I would have bought another Huntsman Inslider. If you're going to have to open up the front in a lot of tight spots, this isn't the helmet to have. It came with a #10 plastic filter plate but I swapped that out for a #9 glass one. The plastic is lighter but I won't use anything but glass. After welding for forty-five years, I'm pretty set in my ways.

I bought the helmet from CyberWeld. The helmet was $72.00, which is a little under Miller's list price. Shipping was free and there was no sales tax. I bought a couple of extra clear lenses and filter plates while I was ordering. The filter plates were as cheap as I've seen them anywhere and the Miller grinding shield was reasonable. Miller helmets and jackets are never the cheapest but I was pleased with the pricing and the service at Cyber Weld. 

The new Welding Journal has an ad for a new auto-darkening helmet that I've never heard of before, Digi-Beret. If I was contemplating buying an auto-darkening helmet I might check one out. It's got a $79.00 price tag and has lots of features. The spec sheet says it's good down to 14 degrees. One of the reasons I'm not a fan of the auto-darkening helmets is that they don't work when it's real cold outside.

In other welding news here at Shop Teacher Bob, I received an e-mail from the American Welding Society that my Certified Welding Inspector credentials have been renewed and I should be receiving my new card and stamp shortly. I've been doing a little testing and certifying since leaving the high school - nice to be able to put the CWI to use. 

Enjoy the weekend.