Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gobble til You Wobble

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Block & Tackle

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Whadda You Do For An Encore?

You make payments. 

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tools - New Cheap Ones & Old Good Ones

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gettin' Old, Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gettin' Old

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane Paved With Rust

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Wood Lathe

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

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

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

Things - Like a Walk In The Park

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

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Insurance Woes

Photo From Here

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

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

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

Friday, November 1, 2013

I'll Be Turning Soon

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

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

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