Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Literature Review

Here's a few quick items on vocational education from some non-mainstream sources:

The editor of Practical Welding Today received an e-mail from  an advisory committee member of last years Practical Welding Today's Teacher of the Year explaining the program's success.

Guided mastery is a series of small successes where the student is set-up to succeed. Imagine being a student, and every day your instructor sets you up to win while all you have to do is keep coming back.  
A funny thing about this process is over time there is a sense that you can change the world. Students who have had a guided mastery experience tend to work harder, persevere longer, feel more resilient toward any small failure, and apply their confidence to other things in life.

Guided Mastery has been around for a long time under a variety of names. Start with the simple and work to the complex taking small bites so each step is mastered. Probably the most common and the most successful approach used in vocational education. If you wish to delve deeper into educational theory, no better spot than The Wisdom of the Hands on the sidebar.

The April edition of the Welding Journal has a special feature on welding education. There is a huge listing of trade schools/colleges/universities offering welding related training along with a couple of articles featuring outstanding welding programs. However, what I found most interesting were the articles about how Hollywood and the movie industry uses welding. I'd never really given this much thought before but there's a lot of welding and fabricating in the movie industry. They make a lot of cool "one-off" stuff. Having a job like that could be a whole lot of fun.

And from one of the most unlikely sources of career advice, in the Odd Angry Shot column in the current issue of Guns magazine, John Conner presents an imaginary address to the graduating college class of 2014. Here's a couple of paragraphs but it should really be read in total.

Bummer, huh? You've been pumped fulla sunshine about being the "best and the brightest," and your future is all unicorns and rainbows? Well I'm not Willy Wonka - I don't sugar coat crap. I'll give it to you straight up, with no soda, no ice and tell you two things: First, "happily ever after" is so-o-o-o "once upon a time." Second, yes, you can have a good life if right now you stop "being educated" and start learning
If your degree doesn't apply directly to building things, fixing broken things or keeping things running - whether it's natural gas turbines or human organs, diesel-electric engines or logistic delivery systems - you might rethink your plans for a bicycle tour of Europe this summer, and work at getting a certificate in welding. Go for a ticket in pressure vessel welding and right away you'll be making more than 90 percent of your classmates while you're trying to figure out what the heck you ever thought you could do with a Master's in counter-cultural theory or feminist theory. 
The field of work isn't important, as long as it falls under building, fixing or maintaining, and you have more than a scrap of university parchment in your bona fides folder. Under-served by education and stuck with a crippled, regulated-to-death economy, you may in fact be America's lowest-qualified graduates facing the toughest job market in nearly a century. You can snivel and whine about it, or become the toughest, most determined and job-skilled grad in your class. You may have a high IQ, but if you've been entertained, flattered and indoctrinated by a dysfunctional system rather than educated, and can't deal psychologically with stiff competition for a decent job, well... I don't know of a single paying position open anywhere for a brilliant sissy with high but unearned self-esteem.

Definitely not Willy Wonka, that's for sure, but that ticket in pressure vessel welding he talks about is what will get you the $150K per year the article in the Wall Street Journal was addressing in my recent post. Speaking of which, the Wall Street Journal also had an article about apprenticeship programs the other day. I'm not sure why these fell out of favor but from a common sense angle they're often the perfect solution. A person receives on the job training and additional classroom training, typically provided by the company/trade or through a community college. Therefore the student learns the "hands on"skills the company is looking for in house and  related theory at the local community college, often receiving a two year degree in the process.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Speed Bag

I finished up the speed bag platform Saturday. Not real happy with the results, however. The platform and the support are very rigid but when you start working the bag, it seems like the whole barn roof starts shaking which slows the bag down some. It could be the bag, also. Some bags are much quicker than others, even though they are the same size and appearance. I'll use it for a little bit and see if it grows on me. If not, everything is screwed together so it can come down in about two minutes. The framework is made from scrap lumber I had laying around, so even if I toss the whole works, not much loss there. If I decide to keep it, maybe get a little paint on it. I've got a ton of things that need painting around here - might as well start with that. I'll get the double end bag up next and see how that works out. 

Jimmy is going to be closing down the gym for the month of May, so I'd like to be able to have both the speed bag and double end bag at my disposal. I've got a key for the gym still, but if I'm going to be working out by myself, I'd just as soon do it at the house. The handier it is, the more likely it is to get used. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wanna Make the Big Bucks? Bring Back Shop Class

Photo From Here
Real interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday by Josh Mandel, the treasurer of the State of Ohio. The headline was a real attention getter: Welders Make $150,000? Bring Back Shop Class.

From the editorial:

   Too many young people have four-year liberal arts degrees, are thousands of dollars in debt and find themselves serving coffee at Starbucks or working part-time at the mall. Many of them would have been better off with a two-year skilled-trade or technical education that provides the skills to secure a well paying job.
   A good trade to consider: welding. I recently visited Pioneer Pipe in the Utica and Marcellus shale area of Ohio and learned that last year the company paid 60 of its welders more than $150,000 and two of its welders over $200,000.
   According to the 2011 Skills Gap Survey by the Manufacturing Institute, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled nationally because employers can't find qualified workers. To help produce a new generation of welders, pipe-fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and other tradesmen, high schools should introduce students to the pleasure and pride they can take in making and building things in shop class.

The editorial mentions a few things that are being done to promote vocational education in Ohio. Some are pretty easily accomplished - making school counselors more aware of the need for skilled craftsmen and putting up posters for career training schools along side the ones for Ivy League schools. Others are a little more difficult because of the money involved - funding a skilled trades ambassador to visit high schools and a million dollar donation for equipment upgrades at a career center.

It's nice to see the trades getting the recognition it deserves and to see that the skilled craftsmen are getting some serious compensation for their labor. I would assume a welder making $150K is putting in a lot of overtime and is very highly skilled. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm semi-retired, I'd consider booming out and try to land one of those big money jobs. That and the fact they would actually expect you to produce and I don't want anything to do with that anymore. I'm pretty sure I can still pass a 6G pipe test, however.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Definitely a sign of Spring when the magnolias start to blossom. Beautiful weather over the weekend. I got a lot done around the shack, just nothing much worth an "in depth report". I did carve a path through the back of the shop, filled up a garbage can with junk and made a scrap run that netted me $45.00. I also got the Suzuki out and rode down the road to a former student's house. He picked up an old Husqvarna that someone had used for a rain gauge and was looking for a little advice on getting the thing unstuck. He's been out of school for a while now and is wanting to learn some machining skills, so we talked a little motorcycles and machining.

While perusing the vast World Wide Web I came across this site the other day: Chickens and steam trains - how cool is that? There's a video of a pair of Chinese steamers running in Iowa that is definitely worth three minutes of your time. Says there will be an excursion in September. That might be worth a road trip.

My buddy Kevin stopped by the other day and dropped off a copy of his dissertation. Said he came through his defense with flying colors, so he's officially a Ph.D. now. The boy done good.

Three more weeks of school until the end of the semester. Looking forward to vacation. I've got lots to do around here and I'll be teaching two days a week this summer but I should be able to get at least a few motorcycle things done - famous last words.

Have a good week.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Golden Gloves

Went to Indy last night for the Golden Gloves finals. "Bazooka Joe" was in the Open Division championship round. He didn't fight as well as he normally does, unfortunately. Joe is super strong and super lean, and always in great shape. He usually fights guys that are shorter than he is and in poorer physical condition so he can put the pressure on them using his superior reach and conditioning. As soon as they slow down a little, wham, he lets them have it. Last night he fought a guy who was almost the mirror image of himself and I think he just couldn't quite figure out how to slip the right hand in there and put the guy to sleep. He rocked the guy a couple of times and one of the judges had him ahead on the cards but it just wasn't enough. It's too bad but that's the fight game. 

It was a good night out even without a win, though. It's been a couple of years since I'd been there. They've painted up the inside of the Armory and there were a lot of good bouts. Fortunately, I could sleep in this morning instead of going to work like I used to the day after the fights. April was always a killer when I was making several trips to the fights, working on the high mileage car and doing all the other crazy things I was always busy with. Nice to be able to slow down and enjoy things a bit more.

Looks like good weather for the weekend. Enjoy it if you've got it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Indiana Tax Freedom Day

Chart From Here

For those of us in Indiana, today is Tax Freedom Day, meaning from this point in the year forward I'll be working for myself rather than the government. If I was living in Louisiana I would have met my obligations a couple of weeks ago. If I was in Connecticut or New Jersey, I'd still have a couple of weeks to go. Something to think about if one was to consider relocating.

I suppose paying close to one third of your income to the various state, local and federal governments isn't so bad for what you get in return - unless you actually pay attention to where your money goes. It is convenient that Tax Freedom Day so neatly coincides with the IRS tax due day. You can file your return, mail them the check and know that from this point forward you get to keep the rest. Small consolation, perhaps, but consolation just the same.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boxing, Bikes and Welding. These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

When faced with a thousand projects, where do you start? With a fun one, of course. I want to get a speed bag hung up around the house here so I needed to cut a couple of identical circles out of the piece of 3/4" particle board I bought a couple of weeks back. With my woodworking set up, it seemed the router was the best bet. I made up the circle cutting gizmo to hold hold the router and used it to scribe the circles and route the edge of the particle board nice and round. I rough cut them with a saber saw first staying about an 1/8" proud of the line. Finished with two identical circles and a tool for the next time I need to do something similar. Hard to beat that. Now that I've got the platform boards cut I need to pick up a couple of 2x4's so I can get the job finished up. I swung by the high school and picked up the swivel that was on the platform I had in the Weld Shoppe. Dave said he had an identical one at home so he unscrewed my old one and sent me on my way. I also need to pick up a little hardware for the double end bag so I can get that installed. I was going to put it downstairs but decided up on top would be better.

We got a surprise visit from a couple of my nephews over the weekend. The younger one is still planning a big bicycle ride I mentioned in a previous post. Seems as if there have been a few major changes, however. He has a couple of new people he's planning on riding with and the route has changed. He'll be starting in Vancouver, B.C. and heading southward until he hits San Diego. Two of the members will head for home at that point and he and the remaining rider will continue south on the Pan-American Highway. Sounds pretty damn ambitious to me - and a little scary. It's bad enough dealing with all the cars, dogs, people, weather and road hazards when you're close to civilization and there's no language barrier to overcome. Not so sure I'd try that trip.  He's supposed to head out in about 6 weeks. He'll be posting to Facebook and a blog as he travels. Hope all works out as planned. Or at least works out even if it's not the way it was planned. That's sometimes the best on big adventures.

Got some training on the new virtual welder at the college Monday. It's pretty cool. It will do stick, MIG and FCAW on a variety of joint types and positions. All of us old guys had a little trouble getting the helmet adjusted to our eyes.  It'll take a little time to see what works best for us, glasses on/glasses off, reading glasses instead of bifocals, or utilize the "cheater lens" function built into the machine. I'm not sure yet how to best utilize the machine with my classes but I'll play around with it some more and see what comes to me. I was looking at  the website and saw that there's a bend test function with it. You can weld up a Vee groove and then it will both a face and root coupon and print out a certificate of the results. That's pretty cool. I'm definitely going to have to come in early a few days and play around with it. In order to simulate a real welding environment, however, I might have to round up some bees to turn loose in the room when they're welding to simulate the welding sparks. Maybe just light up a big cigar, blow smoke in their face and flick the hot ashes on them to get the true welding experience.

And finally, woke up to more snow this morning. Won't it ever end?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bee-you-ti-full Day

Absolutely gorgeous day yesterday. Temperature high 60's, lots of sun and a nice little breeze. I got the garden worked up to the point where it's pert near ready to plant. I had a little help from the chicken but I did most of the heavy lifting. The rhubarb is up as can be seen in the middle photo and the first flowers of the season are up as well. Took the dog for a walk and hung a load of clothes out on the line. Been a long time coming. Should be warm again today. 


Friday, April 11, 2014

Life Is Good

Photo From Here
Two year anniversary of the grabber today. Not having any issues, thank you very much. The blood's still flowing and I've been following all the recommendations from the medical authorities, which if I continue to do will probably cause me problems down the road. I'm still having trouble trying to figure out how treatment and prevention of heart disease can be all over the map like it is. High fat, low fat, polyunsaturated fat, trans fat, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, carbohydrates. One guy recommends statin drugs to keep the cholesterol down, the next guy says cholesterol's not the problem, it's sugar. The next guy after that says gluten and carbs are the real culprits. Hard to put your faith in doctors when they can't agree on even the most basic of dietary guidelines. Seems like the only thing they agree on is that we all need to get some exercise and keep the stress level in check.

Serendipitously, my focus lately has been on brain health. I came across the book Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter and it focuses on the role gluten plays in your brain health as well as your over all health. I'm not very familiar with the Paleo diet but from what little I do know, it sounds like he's making a similar pitch. Eat fats, not carbs, don't worry about the cholesterol. Eat some cold water fish and grass fed beef, get some exercise and sleep, steer clear of sugar in most any form.

When I finished the Grain Brain I started on Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot by Dr. Richard Restak as recommended by Surly. Not done with this one yet but it's all about how to improve your brain function. Each of the 28 chapters in the book is one step you can take "to improve your brain's cognitive performance by increasing alertness, concentration, memory, problem-solving ability, mental endurance, and much more".
It's a short book, just a touch over 200 pages but from what I've read, very intriguing. Obviously, you won't get smarter over night, actually maybe you will, if you decide to take the lessons to heart and follow the steps. Most of the steps will take a little time to become ingrained but should show good returns over the long haul.

I suffered a serious accident many years ago that cracked my skull and pinched my frontal lobe a little. Additionally, between that accident, boxing, motorcycles, wrestling, and an industrial accident, I've had at least a half dozen concussions. They've had a few lasting effects on me but they're normally not too noticeable, to others at least. I am starting to have some issues with vertigo but that could be unrelated. Because of this, family history, and just plain getting old, I'm very interested in staying as sharp as I can as I, hopefully, continue to age for many more years. I'd like to know that what I'm doing for my heart health is also the best for my brain health as well as keeping diabetes at bay and optimizing my over all health.

It appears that my generation will be putting a huge financial drain on the medical field with the number of Alzheimer patients they're predicting in the future. In addition to the financial costs, there is the terrible personal cost to one's family and friends - I told the Missus just to club me like a baby harp seal if I end up that way. The point is, like our heart health, we can do a lot to protect our brain health. Since the medical profession prefers to treat rather than prevent, it remains up to us to do all we can to stay healthy in spite of the conflicting advice we hear so often. In my case, no jelly beans, no doughnuts and most definitely, no cheap sandwich cookies. Keep exercising, stay positive and in the interest of stress reduction, stay away from dumb-ass school administrators.

Life is a beautiful gift. Let's make the most of it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Garden Time - Well, All Most

Had some more tomato stakes made up by the boys at the high school. Look pretty sexy - just need to get a little primer on them and I'll be ready to go. The tomato starts are looking good - about three inches tall right now. Now that the weather is warming up a bit I can start putting them outside during the day to harden them up a bit. I got some peas planted over the weekend and I should be able to get my blueberry bushes planted this week also. I'd like to get some strawberries planted this year but don't know if that will happen. The nice thing is that the weather is in fact warming up and I'm able to get out and do a little something.

The high school also knocked out three pieces like the one in the photo for the Flex Lab at the college. These are to hold the jumper wires they use to connect up all the different configurations on the electrical trainers. You would think we could make these in house here at the college. In fact, there is a CNC plasma in the welding lab but from what I've been told, at this point it's all show and no go. It would be nice to have it at my disposal but can't have everything. I couldn't have made these any nicer than Dave did anyway.

I did make out at the college the other day. They cut up a table to make room for the new virtual welder and there was some 4" angle left over. It's all short pieces but plenty big enough to use to make a skid for the back of my tractor I can use to haul my gas drive welder around. I was toying with the idea of making one or just buying a small trailer. My minds made up now. I finished cutting it apart Monday and measured up the length of all the pieces. I'll design it around the lengths of the material. I'm not looking for anything fancy just a rectangular frame I can hang off the three point hitch. As soon as I come up with a design I'll start putting it together. I can go in to work a little early a couple of days and knock it out pretty quick. There's a Tractor Supply close to the school so getting the hitch pins will not only be easy enough but will be about the only expense. I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Busy day on Saturday. I did the 5K predicted time walk. I came in 15th out of 176. They go by your chip time rather than the clock time and I didn't factor in very closely the time it took me to get to the starting line. Not a big deal - got out on a crisp Spring morning and got a little exercise in.

Later in the day I headed up to the 911 SLUGFEST with my favorite police officer. Jen was a welding student of mine when she was in high school, she comes into the gym to train and we've run a couple of races together every year for the last few years. We were supposed to do the 5K together but she had to qualify with her new sidearm for the sheriff's department.

She's fought on a couple of fundraisers for our gym but she was nervous as hell about this one - bigger crowd for one thing and she didn't want to embarrass herself with a poor performance while representing the police team. I wrapped her hands and worked her corner along with Jimmy. Her and her opponent both fought like wildcats for three rounds and my girl got the win in a split decision.  Shooting in the morning, boxing in the evening - one tough cookie that girl.

The police team won the trophy easily, winning 11-2. The firemen started off well by knocking a policeman out in the first bout. Big overhand right put the guy on the canvas and he stayed down for a while. There were lots of knock downs during the bouts. Everybody was swinging for the fences as you would imagine. In fact, Jen put her opponent down once in the first round. 

As a little side note, the ring was originally used in Vegas and there have been 36 world championships fought between the ropes. Lots of history with the ring, the venue and with the number of current and former pro fighters that were in attendance.

All in all, it was a great night of boxing for a great cause. Jack "Kid" Callahan and his lovely wife Karen were the driving force behind this and they did a great job. Looking forward to an even bigger event next year.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sophia & The PhD

Photo From Here

And that's weldor with an "O" as it should be, you'll notice. 

Eutectic is still around. They're Castolin Eutectic now but they're still making specialty electrodes for hardfacing and joining dissimilar metals among other things. I haven't seen them promoting their products with Sophia lately, however. They do offer training seminars. Don't know much about that but the link will take you there if you're interested.

Busy, busy week so far and more to come, still. Lot's of running around and nothing really to show for it so far. However, my buddy Kevin is defending his PhD dissertation today, so let's all send him some positive mojo. He'll definitely have something to show for the week. Really proud of that boy.

I've got a 5K walk tomorrow and fights later that night. It's a fund raiser for the Make a Wish Foundation to help a couple of young kids out. It's police versus firefighters and I'm working a corner with one of our fighters and then helping out with whatever I can do. It's not much, but it's something. Can't imagine what it would be like to have a terminally ill child. For those of you in the northwest corner of Indiana, it's being held at the Hammond Civic Center. And for the record, my Old Man fought there a few times way back when. Lots of history in the place. My buddy Jimmy also fought there as an amateur and a pro. Should be a good night for a great cause.

Maybe some decent weather again on Sunday. Even if it's not, I'm going to work on something. Time to pull the rag out of my ass and goose it along a little. 

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Link Array

As opposed to Link Wray. I added another link to the education sidebar - Curmudgucation. Like me, another old guy espousing his views on the current state of education. Unlike me, he pretty much stays on topic. Not a bad idea to listen to some of us "elder statesmen" before we all leave the field. The local paper the other day noted that one of the school corporations near by has ten teachers retiring this year. That's a fairly large number for a corporation that size. (Traveling Pirate, that's your last corporation.) Additionally, the new link contains a slew of other education links too.

Now that we've covered the link array, might as well throw in a little Link Wray.