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 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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nothing Humorous ...

about a broken humerus.

The Missus took a tumble last evening and broke her arm up high by the shoulder. Lots of pain involved, of course, but she's a trooper. She's made an appointment with a bone doc to see if any surgery will be required, but at the minimum, she'll be wearing an immobilizing device for 6-8 weeks. Your's truly will be pressed into service around the shack, so it'll be more chores than projects for a while. No biggie. In the past it's always been me that was sporting the plaster and she was picking up the slack. Just another one of life's little curve balls.

Be careful and count your blessings!


While we were driving around Grand Rapids over the weekend, we came upon a real nice bookstore, Schulers Books & Music. They had a good selection of both new and used books so the Missus and I came away with a few new and used books.

The pick of the litter for me was the Veganist by Kathy Freston. I've read just about everything I could get my hands on concerning vegetarian/vegan diets since my heart attack and this book probably makes the case for giving up meat and dairy better than anything else I've read. In the book she makes ten promises of how your life will improve if you adopt a vegan lifestyle:

Promise 1. Your body will find and maintain its ideal weight - effortlessly.
Promise 2. You will lower your risks for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes - and even reverse diseases already diagnosed.
Promise 3. You will live longer - and better.
Promise 4. You will take yourself out of harm's way.
Promise 5. You will save money.
Promise 6. You will radically reduce your carbon footprint and do the single best thing you can for the environment.
Promise 7. You will be helping provide food to the global poor.
Promise 8. You will reduce animal suffering.
Promise 9. You will be following the wisdom of the great spiritual traditions.
Promise 10. You will evolve - and take the world with you.

Those are some pretty heavy promises to make but she states her case well and documents things by quoting authorities in the fields and citing peer reviewed research. She also presents the case for "leaning in" to veganism rather than diving in head first. I took the plunge all at once simply because I thought it would be easier to start over with everything at the same time. That's not necessarily the best way but it's worked for me. I hate to sound like one of those "reformed" people but there's a lot of wisdom in this book. In my case I was looking to prevent further heart disease but the cancer prevention and immune system boost that comes from a vegan diet is certainly something to consider. Vegan's typically live ten years longer. That's definitely something to consider. Of course, cynic that I am, if all this is true, why in the hell wouldn't all doctors be preaching this from the rooftops. Or a few public service announcements that call bullshit after the fast food commercials? I was able to have a homemade veggie burger along with my pie the other day, so maybe things are improving for those of us looking for meat & dairy alternatives. It was pretty damn tasty, by the way. It wasn't a hamburger but it was tasty.

As the subtitle of the book states: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World. Who would have thought that fruits and vegetables had that much power?

If you're looking for more info, you can find it here.