Friday, January 31, 2014

Hose Job

Photo From Here

I've never been much of a chopper guy but if I was to ever build one, it would definitely be something along these lines. As it is, if the weather doesn't improve some I'm never going to get anything done on the projects.

I did manage to get out and replace the hydraulic hose on the old tractor the other day - explains the loss of fluid I had last time I was using it. Wasn't too bad working in the barn, even without heat. The temperature was something like 25, I was out of the wind and compared with the temperatures we've been having, it felt almost pleasant. It was a pretty easy job, though. One end of the hose I could take off while standing up and I only had to kneel down to get the other end off. No laying on my back in the gravel with oil dripping in my face. Nary a cuss word was uttered and I'm set to go for the next batch of snow they're predicting. Somewhere between six to ten inches, and maybe some freezing rain mixed in to that as well, as if you cared. Oh, and then it turns really cold again come Tuesday.

I picked up the parts to get my light situation with the little wood lathe plumbed up. That's next on the list of "cold" projects. Harbor Freight had the 8" grinder on sale that I've been keeping an eye on for sharpening the lathe tools. I also had a coupon to get an additional 20% off. I wasn't sure if I could use the coupon with the grinder already being on sale, so I went to the website to see if it would work before driving up there. Come to find out, not only would they accept the coupon, they'd ship it for $6.99 as well. Since I can't drive up there for that price, I went ahead and ordered it in. Should be here in a couple of days. All that's left is the sharpening fixture and I should be ready to turn.

Stay warm, and if they're predicting snow, stay out of Atlanta.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Travel Dreams (Again)

Graphic From Here

I've been all over the United States but have never really taken the "Big Road Trip", as in a coast to coast or border to border trip. When you live in the Midwest, it's a long trip just to get to the coast, let alone turning around and running back the other direction. I have fancied for quite some time taking a motorcycle trip across US 50. I could pick it up in southern Indiana and head west from there - basically Route 9 on the map above. I've been on the Santa Fe Trail section out into Colorado, I'd need the Utah, Nevada and California parts. That would also help  finish my quest to see all 50 states. That'd leave only Alaska and Hawaii after that. Probably never happen but since I just finished a dream trip, no reason not to start dreaming of another. 

Speaking of which, here's a shot from Rothenburg, Germany I stumbled across:

Photo From Here

I've got a couple of decent black and white negatives I shot while in Rothenburg. Since it's just been too cold to do much else, including going to work, probably be a good time to print a few of them and others from the trip. 

Here's a reason for me to head back to Europe, like I needed another one. I'm assuming that's where these doors are located, I forgot to mark where I found them when I was saving the photo. Regardless, I'm a huge fan of the Art Nouveau style in general and the metal work in particular. However, I think the next big trip is definitely going to be out West, even if I don't ride the motorcycle. I'm currently reading Sequoia: The Heralded Tree in American Art and Culture by Lori Vermaas and it's time to see the Big Trees. Round trip to Reno on Southwest or maybe take the train. Rent a car and head to Yosemite and/or Sequoia National Park. Gawk at the 3000 year old trees and then scratch another one off the bucket list. Better start saving my money.

But for some natural beauty closer to home, saw this looking out the windows the other morning:

The double sun dog. I couldn't get both sides in the photo without going out side and me being the big sissy boy that I've become, I just shot both sides separately from two different windows. It was a neat sight even if my pictures don't do it justice.

Supposed to have some "normal" weather tomorrow. Maybe I can get out and do a little ice skating. Even though it's a big house we live in, after a week inside, except for shoveling and chores that is, the walls start closing in a little. Do me good to get out. Probably good for the Missus, as well.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Photo From Here NSFW
Ain't that a pretty little thing. Swept back exhaust, rearsets, clubman bars and not a speck of dust on it. But you can tell it's British, there's a puddle under it.

I did make it out to the shop on Saturday and gawk at the Beezer a bit. Actually just long enough to make a couple of cardboard patterns for a sidecover. I was going to try and get out there again on Sunday but by the time I got done shoveling/snowblowing and bringing in more wood I said the heck with it. I've got the patterns in the house so I can think about the design while I'm waiting for the temperature to climb back above zero. I've got a rough idea of what I'm looking for now and I think I've got it figured out how to make them easily enough. I'll have to make two hammerforms - probably take as long or longer to make the forms as to knock out the sidecovers but that's OK. Every thing else on the job looks to be pretty straight forward mechanical things and then paint. A pair of those sweptback pipes would be nice also.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Keeping Warm

Photo From Here
Photo From Here

Multnomah Falls - both frozen and flowing. I had the good fortune to ride by and see the Falls when I did the Portland to Missoula bicycle ride a few years back. Nice and warm on the day we rode through, unlike the weather we've been having around here.

Photo From Here

I worked as a welder for a short time 43 years ago when the weather was about like it is here these days (that being a temperature of -1 and a 20 mph wind).The only heat in the plant was a few 55 gallon drums with a gas jet in the bottom of them. They made big storage tanks, so material was shipped in on railroad flatcars and the finished product went out the same way. They'd open up the doors to let the trains in and any heat that was in the building all went out. All of the welders had some type of device like the lady in the picture is holding for warming up their lunch. Most of them were made from brazing rod or TIG filler rod. There was a lunch room that was heated but by the time you took off all your heavy clothes and left enough time to put them all back on again, you didn't hardly have enough time to sit down and eat, so most guys just ate in the shop sitting on a 5 gallon bucket next to the salamander. That was the coldest place I ever worked. Some days it was warmer outside than in. 

I'm currently reading a book about Roald Amundsen, the first man to set foot at the South Pole, among other things. Hard to bellyache too much about the cold around here when he had to suffer through temperatures of - 70 and colder and eat seal and dog meat not only for sustenance but to prevent scurvy. Hardy souls, those explorers. I read the Shackleton story a few years back. Amazing what those men went through. At least Amundsen and Shackleton made it back and got to bask in the glory for a while, unlike Scott. Amundsen's life story doesn't exactly end on a happy note, however. I should probably be reading Robinson Crusoe or something now and save Amundsen for this summer when it's about 95 degrees out, but if he could take it, so can I. 

Stay warm.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cold Hard Truth

I saw this financial advice from a Kevin O'Leary book at Bookpuddle the other day:

I pledge to make no purchases unless I can answer TRUE to the following FIVE statements.
1. I have given this purchase sufficient thought.
2. Buying this item will not create debt for me or anyone else.
3. I not only want this item, I need it.
4. This item is more valuable than the interest I'd earn if I saved the money instead.
5. This item will matter to me in a year.

I was not at all familiar with Kevin O'Leary prior to this but since he's a billionaire and I'm not, it just might be worth taking a look at what he has to offer. In this day and age, item number four might not carry much worth since it's nigh on impossible to earn any interest on any investment placed in a deposit account or CD with a bank. Item number five, however, strikes a chord with me. How many things are we going to buy that actually matter a year later and why will they matter. Big ticket items like a house or a car, certainly, and small items such as tools will matter a year later and many years beyond that.

Every time I stop for gas at the local station, the pump asks me to insert my "Perks" card. If you buy enough items inside the station with the card, you'll eventually receive a few cents per gallon discount on your gas. I used to have one before the heart attack. I used it when buying a cup of coffee and a doughnut or a sports drink in the summertime. Since I've quit eating doughnuts and drinking sports drinks, I now have no reason to go inside the gas station at all so I tossed the Perks card. Since I'm now looking at a purchase from a gas station or convenience mart from a health perspective, not buying the item will matter to me in a year. However, next time you're at your local station take a look at the number of people who buy more than gas or don't even buy gas but still make a purchase anyway. Probably 99% of all of these purchases would fail test number three. A pack of smokes or a doughnut is a want not a need regardless of how bad you are Jonesin' for a smoke or a sugar fix.

I've put a list together of big ticket expenditures I'm going to budget for this year. Most of them pass the five point test above but I'd have to use a pretty loose interpretation when it comes to number three for several of them. Grinding fixture for lathe tools? That's a legitimate need even if the lathe might not have been. However, do I really need a $370 seat for a 40 year old motorcycle? My old pal Joey B used to use the logic of "Pride of Ownership" to explain away some of his purchases - things like an Uzi and Thompson submachine gun for example.

To me, fixing up an old motorcycle or tinkering around with some of my projects is certainly more than a want. There's a certain intrinsic need beyond the dollar value - Pride of Ownership or Craftsmanship, if you will. Will this item matter to me in a year? If I've been tripping over it for thirty years, it'll probably matter next year as well. I will admit that I'm starting to look at the pile and see it less as what it could be and more as what it actually is: a collection of items that are about two days away from being junk and that are going to require an enormous amount of time, labor and money. Probably should have read the list before I drug them all home.

Since it's essentially too late to turn back now, however, and it's too damn cold to do much more than just huddle around the fireplace, I've been thinking about one of the items that actually satisfies all five of the above requirements, that being the BSA that my late brother left to Surly and me. Brother Johnny talked to me about making some sidecovers for him but only in the general sense. We never got around to any specifics, but from what I've gleaned from his old blog and the fact that I was around the dude for 58 years, I think I've got a general sense of what he was looking for. What I need now is to finalize the design or something close to it and make a prototype or if I feel I'm where I want to be with it, make a hammerform and get to gettin'. I can run it by Surly and if we agree, proceed. Like me, he's currently waiting out the weather dreaming about motorcycles in general but rather than sidecovers, it's Sportster pipes in particular.

Filling the space there won't be hard, just need to come up with something sexy to match the new tank John had bought. It'd be nice if I had an air cleaner to stick on there while thinking about this. 

There's supposed to be a brief respite from the cold weather this weekend - see if I can't do something, even if it is wrong. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Real School Reform

There was an Op-Ed in last Friday's Wall Street Journal written by Peter Downs addressing the shortage of skilled workers. His solution? Start an apprenticeship program.

In Switzerland, 70% of young people age 15-19 apprentice in hundreds of occupations, including baking, banking, health care, retail trade and clerical careers. In Germany, 65% of youth are in apprenticeships; in Austria 55%. All three countries have youth unemployment rates less than half of America's 16%. 
There is evidence that such apprenticeships can do more than just train young people for future careers: They can also improve student academic performance. In the few U.S. school districts that have offered apprenticeships, high school juniors and seniors who have been apprentices have improved in the classroom. 
In the Bayless School District in suburban St. Louis, for example, students who entered the district's Middle Apprenticeship Program with the Carpenters' Union had better attendance than before entering the program. The mean grade point average for these students 1.7 at the end of their sophomore year, before they entered the apprenticeship program. By senior year, it was 3.13. They graduated with better attendance and better grades than did a group of similar students who weren't in the program. 
To the extent that the American business community is involved in education reform, they are typically investing in faddish reforms such as banning tenure, that, even if passed, would do little little to ensure the competitiveness of the nation's workforce. If this same money and effort went into pushing for a two-track education system - college or apprenticeship - it would do far more to produce students prepared to compete in the 21st-century economy.

That's the condensed version but you get the picture. It's all about relevance. Students go to work at jobs they like, come back to school and get the education they need to get one of those jobs. Pretty simple - direct cause and effect. And, of course, employers get students that can perform the tasks the job requires with minimum additional training. Everybody's happy. So why don't we see more of it? Mr. Downs doesn't really hit on that much but he's authored a book with the title Schoolhouse Shams: Myths and Misinformation in School Reform that just might. There's an online review of the book here that, like the Diane Ravitch book I just finished, says the book not only addresses the silliness of all the testing and charter schools but comes right out and states what most reformers never mention: It's not reform, it's privatization. Looks like another book I should add to my reading list. Might have to double down on my blood pressure medicine before reading it but that's OK. According to the reviewer, the book doesn't cover the Common Core standards but I read in the paper the other day that Governor Pence in his State of the State speech says that Indiana is going to develop its own standards rather than adopting the Common Core. That and his positive stance on vocational education are about the only things I agree with the governor on as far as educational issues go but it's something.

So once again I say to you, if you want a decent education for your child, get some tools in their hands. With apprenticeships, they'll learn skills that will help them get a decent job and they won't be saddled with huge amounts of college debt. Get them into the habit of reading, have them listen to and play music, get them outside and play. Have them do some chores.Take them to museums and sporting events. Develop their minds and bodies. Invest time in your children and their education but beware of the reformers.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Davida Helmet

While waiting for my chili and cornbread pie to bake the other night, I was buzzing through a few blogs that I follow and I found this:

Photo From Here
That helmet is just what I need to ride the BSA. Get myself a Davida helmet like Jim Redman and stick a Mooneyes decal on it and I'd be hooked up solid.

 Brother Johnny used to post this photo of Redman on his blog every once in awhile:

Davida helmet, Gasolina boots and a Corbin seat and I'd look real good sitting on the BSA out in the shop. Actually I could get a helmet and the seat with the black and white checkerboard stripe down the middle of both of them. There's a thought. Might be better if I took that thousand bucks and got the thing running first. About the only thing this cold weather is good for is planning and dreaming. I have been giving the sidecovers some thought. Next time it gets above thirty, I'm planning on making a move.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Little Cars

Photos From Here

I've been thinking about buying a new vehicle for my commute back and forth to the college. When I worked at the high school, I averaged about 50 miles per week on the truck, partly because I worked so close and partly because I did as much commuting on my bicycle as was feasible. And there was that stretch when gas went to over 4 bucks per gallon and I just refused to give in and pay that. Now, however, I average some where around 200 miles per week and that's starting to kill off the ten year old pickup truck. If I buy a new truck, that's going to set me back about $30K. I need a truck to pull my trailers and to haul things around but about 98% of the time I'm just driving a big, empty vehicle that gets lousy mileage on my commute to school. If I were to get a little POS car that gets twice the fuel economy and is half the cost of a new truck, I can just park the old Dodge and use it only when I need to haul something around or pull a trailer.

With that in mind, I've been internet shopping, looking at new small cars. Remembering the attempts at making small cars by the domestic automakers of the past, the Corvairs, Chevettes, Pintos, and the noteworthy 1980 Ford Mustang Ghia pictured above, I'm a little reluctant to even consider such a thing. However, if my wife's new Buick is any indication of progress, they have actually figured out how to make a decent little car. Wanting to stick with an American made vehicle, I've been comparing the Chevy Spark, Ford Fiesta and the Dodge Dart. There's a Chevy and Ford dealer in town so that's a plus and both of the vehicles are a bit cheaper than the Dart. The Fiesta Hatchback with the 5 speed manual is less than $15k but it only comes in black, white or silver - the three colors I would least like on any new vehicle I would buy. However, here's an idea:

Maybe take the Plain Jane and get it "dolled up" with a little striping or something cool. I saw a big Jeep at school the other night in the parking lot and it had Popeye in stenciled type lettering underneath the front doors with a painted picture of Popeye with the words "the Mercenary" underneath that. I don't know what the story is but it looks cool as hell on the side of the Grand Cherokee. Don't know that I'd want anything along those lines but a little pinstriping could be just the ticket.

Anyway, one of these days I'll head up town and check out the Fiesta and the Spark. If I save a conservative estimate of 25 bucks per week on fuel, that's $100 per month which would be half of the car payment if I make a decent down payment and the car should require a minimum of service before I quit teaching at the college in a couple of years. At that time I could trade it in on something decent or give it to my oldest grandson who would be about ready to get his driver's license. Of course, I may test drive them and decide that the small cars are still cheap cars and just aren't worth buying. You'd think they'd have to be better than a Chevette, though.

Stay warm and have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Back to "Normal"

Photo From Here

Photo From Here

Photo From Here

Guzzi's and sidecars - these are a few of my favorite things.

I went back to work Monday and it was about 46 degrees with the sun shining bright. After the below zero weather we've been having, felt plenty warm enough to ride a motorcycle. Sure enough, when I left the building in the evening there was a big ol' Harley Ferguson parked in the motorcycle lot. It was probably only about 36 then - going to be a brisk ride home for the brave soul but better than being out for a couple of hours plowing and shoveling like last week.

I developed my film from the Europe trip and I've got some nice negatives to work with. Now I need to pick a couple, mix up some fresh chemicals and then spend an evening or two in the darkroom printing myself up a couple of nice 8x10's or maybe even an 11x14. I haven't done much film work lately. One of the things I thought would be a regular feature of the blog was black and white photography. It hasn't turned out that way but not because like most everyone else I've gone all digital. While digital is definitely the way to go if you're going to post pictures on the computer, film photography with the darkroom processes is more up my alley. The problem is, what do you do with the photographs after you make them? If you go to the trouble of mixing up the chemicals to print pictures, you might as well make several enlargements while you're at it. And you might as well do that a few times in relatively quick succession because the chemicals have a limited shelf life once they're mixed. I shot three rolls on my trip and if I print just two 8x10's from each roll, where am I going to display them? Maybe I need some type of photo gallery where I can change the photos on display every time I process a new roll of film. That's not much of a problem to have, I know, and it's not going to keep me from printing up a few shots from my trip, either. And no matter how much space they take up on the wall, I'll make room for a shot of the Eiffel Tower and one or two others. I do want to start shooting a little more B&W, especially with my 4x5 cameras even if I just throw the prints into a box when I'm done.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Travelogue Part Seven

Paris at last! (You're probably thinking the same thing if you've been keeping up here.) It was a long day on the bus to get to Paris, partly due to the distance and partly due to rules calling for mandatory stops to let the bus driver rest. As we approached our hotel, I was able to see the top of the Eiffel Tower all lit up. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I've been dreaming of seeing Paris for years - finally happening!

The day started with a city tour with a local guide - a lovely women who unfortunately was suffering from laryngitis. We had headsets on so we could hear her but a tough break for a tour guide.

This is the outside side/rear view of Notre Dame. While the front is certainly beautiful, this view gives you more of an architectural view point. The Gothic construction with the flying buttresses, spires, gargoyles, the whole works. Construction of the church started in 1100 and took 200 years to finish. If you were a stone mason and got on that job when it started, you could have started and finished your career here, as could your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

The interior of the church is not too shabby either. The costs to maintain these old cathedrals must be outrageous. I'm extremely grateful they do. Likewise, I'm glad they weren't all bombed during one of the wars. I remember watching on the news a few years back some of the antiquities being destroyed in the Middle East and thinking what a shame that was. I'm just extremely thankful I finally got my chance to see many of these things before I leave this earth. 

Out in front of the church is this bronze marking kilometer zero and the center of the city. Legend has it, if you rub the marker you'll have good luck and you'll return to Paris in the future. Don't know if I'll ever make it back but, hopefully, Kevin will have the opportunity. When I was in Italy the first time, I made myself a vow that I would return. That turned out to be a little dicey with the heart attack but I made it. I'm not making any vows this time, but if I ever go back to Europe, Paris will be part of the trip. And like Kevin, I made sure I rubbed the marker.

I could spend days wandering around just looking at the ironwork. I did manage to see one of the really cool Art Nouveau entryways from the bus window as we were driving by.

It was similar in design to this but I we went by it much too quickly to get a photo of it. We also went by the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore I posted about a couple of months back. It's not too far from the Louvre, which again, I got to see front and back but only from the bus window. 

They did stop the bus at the Eiffel Tower, though. Not long enough for my liking but that's the way these things go. I could have spent a week in Paris and wouldn't have been satisfied.

We had the choice of staying in Paris on our own or going to Versailles to see the Palace. Our little group all chose the Palace. Tough decision for me. I wanted to see the Palace but I really wanted to see more of Paris as well.  Louis XIV, the Sun King, decided to move out of Paris and into the country so he built himself a "little" chateau for him and the family. Originally it was located on 8,000 acres if I remember correctly. It currently still has 2,000 with the Palace and the gardens. Most of the furnishings were sold off after Louis XVI and wife Marie Antoinette were dethroned and beheaded which was a shame (both the beheading and the loss of furnishings). The place is magnificent inside but would be even better if it were furnished as opulently as it would have been originally.The balcony in the rear of the photo is where Marie made the famous comment about letting them eat cake. Something to remember if you ever become king or queen.

Here's a partial rear view of the Palace. Without a wide angle lens, there's no way to get all of the palace in view at one time. If you do an image search on the internet you can find some nice aerial shots of the Palace and the gardens. Those are the only ones to really do the place justice.

Our day in Paris was wrapped up with a farewell dinner featuring traditional French menu items, none of which were vegan friendly, however. Before signing up for the meal, I spoke with our tour guide and she assured me she could take care of me and I should come along. Also, if I didn't come along for the dinner I would miss the big surprise she had planned for us. Dinner was indeed good and the big surprise? 

The Eiffel Tower at night. Even though the tower is lit up at night, it seems that at nine o'clock they do a fancy light show that makes it even more impressive. Ilka was right, I wouldn't have wanted to miss that. Great way to finish up the trip. (The tower wasn't actually laying on its side that night. I turned things 90 degrees prior to saving in the video clip but ...)

Next morning it was say our goodbyes, then Paris to London, London to Chicago, Chicago to home. The trip of a lifetime. I may never get a chance to go back, but as Bogey said to Bergman: "We'll always have Paris".

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Few Good Books

I've just finished two books dealing with education and I'm about two-thirds of the way through with another one. Even though they are all dealing with education, they don't all address the same topics, but at the same time, they do, which is how to make the system better. 

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas is his story of graduating from college with $32,000 worth of debt, not being able to find a job in his field of study and going back to school to get a graduate degree and coming out of it all being debt free.

Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch is the book to read if you want to know what's wrong with public education and how to fix it. Really fix it. Not the way most of the politicians are proposing to or have actually started implementing.

The third book, The Art of Freedom by Earl Shorris, is the story of the development of the Clemente Course in the Humanities. Even though I haven't read the whole book yet, I feel I've got enough of it under my belt to comment on the content (Plus, I peeked at the last chapter).

Reign of Error is the book that everyone who has even a passing involvement in public education should read -  teachers, parents, school administrators, politicians (especially politicians) - everyone. The book addresses all the current problems of public education, whether real or perceived and offers not only a workable solution to the problems but explains why many of the political solutions such as merit pay, won't work as intended. It's truly a great book. It says a lot of the things I've been saying the last few years but Ravitch says it much better and has the data to back it up. Read it!

Much of the problem of educating the general populous is poverty. Maybe the politicians coming up with all the union busting rules, Rise to The Top, Common Core, etc., don't agree with that, but most everyone with a grasp on reality does. Ravitch explains the role poverty plays in education and offers solutions but Earl Shorris tackles the problem from another angle - through the humanities. How he gets to his solution is a rather long story - the book that I'm reading - but the condensed version can be found at the website for the Clemente Course. In a nutshell, poor people are poor because they don't have a grasp on the humanities. By teaching the great works of literature and philosophy to poor people, it's possible to break the cycle of poverty. Certainly it's an interesting hypothesis and in this case it's been proven by the thousands of people who've improved their lives as a result of the course. And we're talking some hard cases here - drug addicts, convicted felons - not the easiest people to educate. 

Ken Ilgunas in Walden on Wheels, on the other hand, is a middle class guy who wants more education but just doesn't want to go any deeper into debt to get it. His story is more entertainment than solution when it comes to addressing the high cost of a college education but it's a good story and a clever solution - not everyone is willing to live in a van for a couple of years to get through graduate school - but it works for him and it does create the opening for a dialogue on how to bring costs under control.

Real educational reform needs a blueprint. Diane Ravitch offers just that in The Reign of Error. Plus, rather than all the high stakes testing in math and English, we should set aside some time to incorporate the great works of literature and philosophy as suggested by the success of the Clemente Course in Humanities. And perhaps we should look at Ken Ilgunas and his outside the box but inside the van thinking of how to make it affordable. A good plan is always valuable but there is always room for creative thinking when tackling tough problems. 

The problems of public education are not going to go away anytime soon. There is currently an ad running for an Illinois politician plugging his involvement in starting charter schools and the need for merit pay for teachers. Rise to The Top and Common Core are going to be with us for years. This is the year we were supposed to get the big pay off from No Child Left Behind with everyone finally being at grade level, like that was going to happen.  And to put the icing on the cake, the state of Indiana is going to try and further destroy school unions and teacher's retirement benefits with this craziness. They've already changed the multiplier for the teachers retirement fund so those retiring after this school year will receive less money. Now they want the teachers and public employees to pay for administrative costs of the pension plan and prevent the union from discussing traditional union business under the guise of protecting the individual rights of the union members. 

Maybe if the politicians would just come out and say they're not interested in educational reform but rather, privatization, then it would make more sense to me. Get rid of the public schools through charters or private and then convert the pension fund to a 401K and then all they would have to do is set aside "X" number of dollars per student every year and they could wash their hands of all of it. If the students don't get a decent education or the teachers don't have decent working conditions, wages or retirement they can place the blame somewhere else. They're good at that. Don't forget the police and fire are going to be battling some of this as well.  

Hopefully, one of these days, those in charge will start looking for educational solutions, rather than political solutions. Maybe they'll come to accept the fact that good education is expensive but the alternative is even more so. Reading a few good books would be a good place to start.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Travelogue Part Six

One of the bad things about the whirlwind style of tour is the fact that you don't always get to spend a lot of the daylight hours in your city of destination for the day. That's partly because it was winter and we were only a couple of days away from the winter solstice while we were in Lucerne but not much else you can do if you want to see eight countries in less than two weeks. Fortunately, cities like Lucerne are pretty regardless of the time of day.

A beautiful pair of doors we stumbled upon while walking around the city.

Also stumbled across the Magic X Erotic Megastore. Apparently this is a chain of stores in Germany and Switzerland from what I saw when I did a web search. I don't speak German or French but it wasn't hard to figure out what they were selling. No need for Google to translate things.

Ulla Popken is in the house! Ulla Popken does mail order business in the US but they've got 320 stores in Europe. At my house it's more Ulla Popken than Magic X. Probably a good thing - heart patient, you know.

We took a boat ride on Lake Lucerne first thing the following morning. Rather overcast but the lake was calm and the captain explained the history and the attractions of the area as we motored around the lake. Like Lugano, Lucerne is a place for the wealthy to reside and vacation. The captain pointed out a hotel where Sean Connery, Sophia Loren and other celebs were known to stay. Probably not the kind of place I'd fit in even if I could afford it. They probably wouldn't feel very comfortable traveling in my circle either though. But Sophia is always welcome to stop by when she's in the neighborhood.

We made one more stop prior to departing for Paris, the Lion Monument. The monument is a memorial to the Swiss Guard that were killed during the French Revolution in 1792. It's a beautiful piece of stone carving both in design and execution. The link will explain the symbolism of the dying lion. It's a very nice tribute to brave soldiers. It'd be nice if some day we wouldn't need to commemorate any more dead soldiers. Seems like all of European history is the history of war. Switzerland is the oldest neutral country, having been so since 1815. That makes a lot of sense when you factor in the costs of lives and dollars lost going to war every 20-30 years like we have in this country. 

Switzerland officially uses the Swiss Franc rather than Euros, by the way. Most of the touristy places will accept Euros, which makes it easy. I bought some chocolate for the Missus and the lady opened the drawer to make change and one side of the drawer was in Swiss Francs and the other was in Euros. When you're a small country wedged in between a couple of Euro Zone countries, helps to be flexible. Or maybe neutral is a better word.

Next stop Paris.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Lathe Bed

Surly sent the cartoon along for me. Since the weather has been so cold, that's pretty much what I've been lately - a vegan zombie. I did make it out today and put the bed extension on the wood lathe. It fit right up, came with the necessary hardware to bolt it together, it has adjusting setscrews so the top surface can be leveled evenly, and to top it all off, the end is drilled and tapped so another extension could be mounted up to it. In theory, I could keep adding extensions until the lathe bed was as long as the shop wall. Not likely, but I could if I wanted to. 

Next thing I need is to make a rack for the tools and the grinding set-up for sharpening them. Harbor Freight has a cheapie 8" grinder on sale for $49.99. It says it's 3/4 horse. As little as I would probably use it, it should be good enough. Get myself a Wolverine grinding fixture after that and I'll be set. Might be a good idea to hold off on that until I start getting paychecks again, however. I've got a 25% off coupon that I could use when the grinder is no longer on sale at the end of the month. That would actually save me $5.00 more and bring it down to $45.00. That right there is the reason you pay attention in math class, my friends.

I bought one of these Wolverine fixtures for the Woodshop at the high school and it works like a charm. Set the length of the arm to obtain the desired angle on the gouge and that's all there is too it. There's a couple other attachments you can get, one of which works real well for "fingernail" grinds on small gouges. After I get the wood lathe all set up ready to go, I'll make a tool post and a couple of tools to do metal spinning on my old South Bend metal lathe. Always wanted to try that. 

Travelogue Part Five

Here's a couple more shots taken in Florence:

These were all taken by the Basillica of Santa Croce. Top photo is where you come out after touring the church and the museum. Middle photo is a statue of Dante. There is also a big cenotaph inside the church like there is for Michelangelo even though Dante is buried in Ravenna. It seems Dante was in exile from Florence at the time of his death and the city and Dante couldn't agree on the terms to have him return honorably. The bottom photo is the Christmas market set up on the Piazza di Santa Croce. This one added some color and warmth to the plaza. Just one more reason I love Florence. 

After leaving Italy we headed for France with stops in Lugano and Lucerne Switzerland. The weather was a little less than perfect when we stopped in Lugano with it being cold with a light rain falling. We got a chance to walk around for a couple of hours and it looks like Lugano is a city for people with much deeper pockets than I've got. Lots of upscale shops - the kind of place where the "beautiful people" go to relax and get away.

Someone working there had this Moto Guzzi parked there. Actually, we were very close to the Guzzi factory as we left Italy and entered Switzerland. 

Kevin and I came across this little thing while perusing the city. Looks kind of like something we would have encountered at the High Mileage Contest we used to enter. It's pretty tiny to be street legal but could be just the thing for the congested streets of the European cities.

Statue by Dali. There were several by him, actually, in a little plaza facing the lake. If I was going to have an art installation, I'm not sure I would have commissioned several by him. They are all rather large and I would assume, costly. However, if you look at the name on the awning behind the statue, you could infer that there was some money to be had in the city.

As we left Lugano we headed into the Alps and the rain turned to snow. The photo doesn't do it justice but it was quite pretty and the higher we got the prettier it got. However, a week later they got hit with three feet of snow that fell in a matter of 12 hours and ended up with this:

Photo From Here

It's pretty but it had the roads shut down for a while. I wouldn't have minded being trapped for a couple of days in the Swiss Alps but that would have upset the rest of the schedule. We passed through the Gotthard Road Tunnel and when we came out the other side the weather was completely different - no more snow. The tunnel is 10.5 miles long and our tour guide mentioned prior to entering the tunnel that typically, the weather is always different on the two sides of the mountain. This time was no exception. Gray and snow on one side, dry and sunshine on the other. A little snow cover on the ground would have been nice but the chalets on the mountainside were still very pretty.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Travelogue Part Four

Venice: One of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It'd be hard to argue that statement after looking at this photo of the Grand Canal. 

Beautiful and romantic. What could be more romantic than a gondola ride down the canals? Since I took a gondola ride last time I was here, I skipped that and Kevin and I walked around the city on our own. Nice relaxing time just soaking up the history, the beauty and the warm sunshine. I did learn the name of Andrea Palladio on this trip. Palladio lived in the 1500's and was one of the most influential Western architects. I'd never heard of him prior to this trip, I'm ashamed to say. Another gap in my education but I'm working on correcting that, however. I just ordered a book about Venetian architecture. Seems the more I learn, the more I don't know. Now that we have Rise to The Top and the Common Core, I'm sure the name Palladio will be known by every charter school attendee, though. (I'm currently reading the Diane Ravitch book Reign of Error and its got me all wound up, hence the dig at three of my educational sore spots.) 

Here's Ilka, our tour director, rounding us all up after getting off the water taxi. There were 44 of us on the bus with 16 different nationalities. She did a great job keeping us informed on the history of the areas we traveled to and keeping us functioning as a group. I only took classes on field trips a few times during my high school teaching career and that was enough of a worry. The planning and the worry about some knucklehead doing something stupid or getting lost was more than I normally wanted to deal with. I can't imagine what it's like keeping a tour like ours on track. No complaints here, though. 

After Venice, it was on our way to Florence. I wouldn't have taken this tour if it hadn't have gone to Florence. The heart of the Renaissance. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi,  Botticelli. The list goes on and on. We were there on the last trip and this is the one place in Italy I really wanted to visit again. Our day started with a guided tour by a local guide. 

We covered much the same ground as the last time we were here but well worth hearing and seeing it again.

Brunelleschi's dome on one of the most magnificent churches in the world. 

And because it was off-season for tourists, we had the opportunity to go inside this time. An amazing feat of engineering and architecture. 

The group had some free time before heading to Pisa on an optional side trip. Since we'd done that last time, Kevin and I once again toured the city. This time we took in the Pallazo Pitti and the Basilica of Santa Croce.

While walking around we came across this street artist. Good to see that the arts are still alive and well in Florence.

The Pallazo Pitti was the home of the Medici family, the rulers of Florence and the Holy Roman Empire at one time. If you are the ruler of the civilized world, no reason you can't afford a nice house and this was definitely one nice house - huge palace and gardens chock full of art work. They didn't allow any photography inside so you'll just have to go to Florence and see it for yourself. If that's all you saw it would still be worth the trip. 

After the Palace we made our way back to the Basilica of Santa Croce.

Again, another simply amazing work of art. While this one is not nearly as grandiose as some of the others we've visited on the outside, on the inside is the tomb of Michelangelo along with several other heavy hitters of the Renaissance. If I was to consider moving to Europe, I think someplace around Florence would be my first choice. I love this city.