Monday, June 30, 2014


Photo From Here
Guzzi scrambler - my idea of what an adventure bike should be. I've been reading a lot about the ADV's in the bike mags I get.  About the only one that makes sense to me is the Kawasaki KLR. As soon as I head north around here, just riding on the street is adventure enough for me. If I was going to play around on the dirt, I'd build myself a flat track around the cornfield and build myself a rigid framed Sprint.

Maybe when Surly and I get our Sportsters done, we can do a Sprint build.

However, if you are looking for adventure, check this out. Instead of BMX, it's WCMX. The latest Welding Journal had a write up on Box Wheelchairs. It's amazing what a tubing bender, TIG welder and good old Yankee ingenuity can come up with. Me, I'm lucky to be sitting in the chair in front of the computer after throwing my back out yesterday. In fact, I've got a chiropractor appointment later on, but God bless those wheelchair athletes - inspiration to us all.

Well, maybe not all. The Wall Street Journal reported the other day that 71% of the youth 17-24 aren't eligible to join the armed forces for a variety of reasons, including obesity. Throw in those with too many or too obvious tattoos, big holes in their ears, felony records or just not smart enough, and the pool starts to get pretty shallow.

The Small Farmer's Journal had quick blurb in the editor's column about certain communities having outlawed not only livestock within city limits but also vegetable gardens. Might be a little easier to field an army if we all ate our homegrown vegetables. It really can't be good from both a health and an economic standpoint if you have pretty close to a total disconnect from your food source. God forbid anything major hits this country  - it'll be like Lord of the Flies.

That's enough of that - maybe I won't be so pissy after I see the bone cracker.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pressure Switch

I had to make another trip back to the dentist this week, and with a Harley dealership just a couple of miles away, I took my list of needed parts with me and stopped in after visiting the dentist. As you can see in the photo, the oil pressure sending switch took a hit someplace along the line and bent the threads. The dealer said that part was obsolete, the wrist pin clips and oil pump drive pin were available, but he would have to order them. None too encouraging there, so I said no thanks on ordering since I hopefully won't have to be going that way again any time soon. There's another dealer close by the college, so I stopped by there a couple of days later and the pressure switch was in stock along with the drive pin. He had to order the wrist pin clips but the total bill was less than twenty bucks and I can get back to work again. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Money Thoughts

I received my copy of the Imprimis the other day and the feature story was adapted from a speech given by Anthony Daniels. Doctor Daniels worked in a British hospital and prison and had some very interesting things to say about the clientele. While this was a poor area in Britain, I'm sure there are parallels that can be drawn here in the United States. Here's a couple of highlights:

I should mention a rather startling fact: By the time they are 15 or 16, twice as many children in Britain have a television as have a biological father living at home. Few homes were without televisions with screens as large as a cinema - sometimes more than one - and they were never turned off, so that I often felt I was examining someone in a cinema rather than in a house. But what was curious was that these homes often had no means of cooking a meal, or any evidence of a meal ever having been cooked beyond the use of a microwave, and no place at which a meal could have been eaten in a family fashion.

Here I should mention in passing that in my hospital, the illegitimacy rate of the children born in it, except for those of Indian subcontinental descent, was approaching 100 percent.

The Wall Street Journal had a special report on social Security on Monday. Here's a couple of highlights from it:

52% of couples and 74% of unmarried individuals who receive benefits get at least half their income from Social Security. 
34% of the workforce has no savings set aside specifically for retirement. 
The Social Security cash-flow deficit in 2012 was $55 billion.

And, coincidentally, this week's Time magazine had a look at what they called "the coming retirement apocalypse" reporting on how bad it appears to be and what is currently being done about it. A few interesting stats:

Only 64% of private sector workers have any formal retirement plan, and fewer than half sign up for one. 
Medicare trust fund is projected to reach zero in 2026 
Social Security trust fund is projected t reach zero in 2033

Assuming that much of what Dr. Daniels found to be true in Britain is also true in America, and I see no reason to think otherwise, a certain portion of the population would rather buy a large screen television and cable service than a stove and dinette set, in spite of having saved money by not buying a wedding dress or renting a hall for their wedding. I don't know what percentage of the population this group makes up, but I think it would be safe to include them in the 34% of the population that that has no savings set aside or that hasn't signed up for a retirement plan. I would also think that it wouldn't be too large a leap to figure these people don't place a very high value on education.

With the current US debt at 17.5 trillion and counting, Social Security and Medicare going belly up in the next 15-20 years, and only a third of private sector workers putting money away for retirement, things should get real interesting in a few years. Sitting around the house watching the big screen while on the dole just might become a little uncomfortable. For those who worked but didn't plan for retirement, things may be uncomfortable as well. For those who have worked hard all their lives but never made enough money to salt much away, they may end up working until they die. And that's just no way to live. They certainly deserve better.

I'm not so sure any of the answers proposed that I've come across are going to help much. I certainly wouldn't put my full faith and trust in the government, whether that's at the state level or the federal. Any time a politician sees a pile of money sitting around, he's going to try and use it to buy votes for his next election. However, when people get used to having someone else support them, that's a tough habit to break.

From my viewpoint, skills and personal responsibility are the place to start.

Get a job, any job. Then get a better job. Go to night school, learn a trade, do something to improve your value. When you've got a job, keep that job until something better comes along.

Make smart decisions, always keeping the long term in mind. Let's face it, buying a big screen TV before you have a kitchen stove is not a smart decision.

Stay debt free as much as possible. If money is tight, pay cash. Always. If you don't have the coin jingling in your pocket, you can't make an impulse purchase.

Pay yourself first. Put something away every week for your retirement. It doesn't have to be much but it needs to be something. Just don't be like the politicians - let the money ride.

When I read the Ron Paul book recently, he mentioned the concept of legacy. I don't know if I ever really gave a thought to what my legacy would be when I was young - I became a teacher more by accident than by design - but I was fortunate to be raised in the typical two parent family of the '50's and by most accounts I turned out alright. However, for many, anything remotely resembling the idyllic family of the '50's is long gone. That being the case, what will the legacy be of the young men and women who are being raised in a household that values a television more than a kitchen stove and table. Who's responsibility is it to instill some values and homemaking skills into the youth? The schools?

What used to be called Home Economics did a pretty good job of that back in my time. Typically the girls took Home Ec and the boys took shop class. Now Home Ec has morphed into Family and Consumer Science and, of course, the gender bias has been addressed over the years but, and I'm only guessing at the numbers here, like shop classes, many schools have done away with FACS classes. Now we're left with no-one giving kids advice on how to cook, clean, balance a checkbook, save for retirement, or any number of other useful life skills. While I've never been a proponent of schools taking the place of parents, if parents aren't in the picture, who's left? Are you going to show a kid how to use a pressure cooker?

Save your money, teach your children well.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Old Folks Boogie

The previous owner of the Sportster found the wrist pin and sent it my way along with some photos he had taken during the dis-assembly process. The photos will help with getting things back together. Now I need a little bit of time to get back to it. With the several visits last week to health care professionals - doctor, dentist, physical therapist - plus mowing the grass and going to work, didn't have much time for working on the Sportster. And with the killer toothache I developed late in the week, I didn't feel like doing much even when I had some time. I can see where this getting old stuff is not going to come easy. At least I'm getting older and I've still got my own teeth to cause me the grief. Always a silver lining someplace, I suppose.

The weather forecast for the upcoming week looks a lot like last week - rain and warm temperatures. The mowing schedule now is: mow the front one day, the back the next day, wait a day, repeat. I'll give up on painting the house for this week and try to get a little work done on the Sportster instead. I don't want to lose what little momentum I've got going.

Maybe the new theme song:

"When your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill ....."

Keep on rockin' y'all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


                                                        Photo From Here

A little food for thought from around the WWW:

Michigan will allow Career & Technical Education classes to be plugged in to meet the graduation requirements in lieu of a foreign language or algebra class. Of course, not everyone's happy about that but it should be signed into law very soon.

The BioLite camp stove will not only allow you to grill your sausage, it'll also charge your phone at the same time. I got an e-mail about this from Kickstarter. They've got way more pledges than what they were asking for so no money is required, but it's worth having a look. Ingenious idea.

Likewise, no money required here, either. Frankie Flood is looking for your vote over at Handverker in order to get a spiffy printer to help out with making the prosthetic hands he's been working on. I'm a little slow in promoting this one due to being away from the computer for a few days but I doubt if anyone else in the running is doing anything more important than he is. See if you can spare a few minutes and help out. You'll feel better for it.

My friend Scott Burt at The Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame is recognizing Women in Boxing as this year's theme for the annual induction ceremony. It's July 12th. I'd love to go back but it's just a little too far for a quick out and back trip for me. Since I'm teaching summer school, I don't want to stray too far from the reservation but it would make a nice vacation destination. It's located in beautiful Belfast, New York, home of beautiful scenery and beautiful people. I think Jimmy's band is going to play there again.

On the home front, the former owner of the Sportster found the wrist pin, so that's good. I should have that in my possession real soon. I got the west side of the house painted and got started on the north side. The chicks are doing well now that they are out of the basement. The rabbits have trimmed off a few of my pepper plants and they got one of my goji berries as well. I need to protect the remaining plants, so that'll be today's job, weather permitting. It's not like there isn't anything else for them to eat out there. I'll just file that under the heading  "It's always something". The rest of the garden's looking good, however.

As Uncle Pete used to say: "Keep your end gate up".

Monday, June 16, 2014


Interesting weekend for me. We had a sort of mini family reunion on Friday night with everyone going out to dinner. My youngest brother stayed a couple of nights with me so we had a chance to get caught up. After he left I got the chicks out of the basement and transferred to the coop and I started painting the house. The weather was a little threatening but the rain held off and I got quite a bit done. I've got about an hour's worth left to finish up the siding on the back of the house. Looks like rain coming in later today and most of the rest of the week, so won't be able to get much else done outside.

Which means I should be able to get a little something done on the Sportster this week. My bolt kit came last week and if you look closely you can see the shim for the kickstarter and the locking tab for the countershaft sprocket I picked up at the dealer last week. I've got a woodworking project for a guy to do that I need to get started on. Might be a good time to work on that as well. 

Have a good week. Off to the doctor for my check-up.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

New Look

When I posted about Ron Paul's book, I went to Amazon and grabbed a photo of his book to illustrate the blog post. Apparently, that was a bad idea or maybe me writing about abandoning public schools was just some bad mojo. Whatever it was, the photo migrated to the following post and I couldn't get rid of it without changing to a new template and layout design. When I went back to edit the post the photo no longer appeared on the page but was somehow embedded in there. I tried a cut and paste so I wouldn't have to type everything over and even though you couldn't see the image it showed up again in the blog. Very strange.

I'm not all that pleased with the new format but at least I was able to get rid of the evil photo. Maybe it'll grow on me.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Black & White

For whatever it's worth, I've been here a couple of times - Central Camera in Chicago. The photo comes from here, via here. Even though you can't make out all of the store name in the photo, I new right away where it was. The place has been in business since 1899 but since film is about gone, who knows how much longer it will be around.  As far as that goes, Kodak is pretty well done also. I would like to get out to Rochester, NY and see the George Eastman House some day. The web site says they'll be hosting the Photo Finish 5K in September. Maybe I should start training. Then again, maybe not.

The Missus picked up the catalog for the upcoming county fair the other day and got me to thinking that I should get a couple of B&W prints made up from my trip to Europe last winter. I shot four rolls of film and I got some decent negatives to work with - maybe print a couple of my favorites, enter them in the fair and then hang them on the wall later. They offer some big cash prizes - I think the winner in each of the categories takes home $1.00. That's one dollar, not a hundred. Regardless, it would be nice to have a  shot of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame to hang on the gallery wall out in the wood shop. 

Enjoy the weekend. Looks like it's going to be a dandy around here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

School Revolution

I just finished reading The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System by Ron Paul. His answer is really quite simple, just abandon it. That's right, don't use public education, homeschool your children instead. It wasn't exactly the answer I was expecting, but he makes a good case here. If you wish to educate your children or grandchildren in an environment free from bullying and in one that respects your own personal values, there's no place better than home.

Obviously, there are some problems with the homeschooling approach and he addresses most of them fairly well. He mentions shop class specifically and the fine arts as requiring more than the average homeschooling parent would be able to work with. (I did like the fact that because he's an older gentleman, it was shop class, not Tech Ed or STEM.) One problem that he didn't address in depth was the single parent - kind of hard to work a job and be a stay-at-home educator for your children.

As a retired public school teacher, I'm not so sure I agree with everything in the book, but since my politics lean toward the Libertarian direction, much of what he says about public education today I'm in complete agreement with, particularly the one size fits all approach. One size may fit all, but none well. With the new technologies and the abundance of curricula available today, it really does make sense to personalize a student's education.

Mr. Paul has his own homeschooling curriculum available. Normally when I see something like that I just figure here comes the sales pitch and walk away. However, he gives away the K thru 5 years - can't get rich if you're giving it away - and he shows you how a well motivated student just might be able to earn a Bachelor's degree at the same time he's finishing his high school work.

It's a short book, but an interesting one. I don't know if I'm ready to throw in the towel on public education just yet, but there does need to be some major fixing.

More info on the Ron Paul curriculum can be found here:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

More Wrenchin'

Photo From Here

Been making progress - the mower place had the pulley and belt in stock. The pulley was only twenty bucks and it only took about 30 minutes to get it and the new belt installed with nary a cuss word uttered. 

I've got the engine cases and the transmission put together on the Sportster. According to the manual, it says when reassembling the engine to put the heads and barrels on after the engine is installed in the frame. Even if that's not the most efficient way to handle it, it's probably the best for an old guy with a bad back working solo. I need to get the oil pump sorted and bolted up first and then I should be ready to drop the engine in the frame. I've only been able to find one wrist pin in the boxes, so I need to do another search and if still no luck, call the previous owner and see if he might have it some place. I'm heading to the local Harley dealer today to see about a couple of little things and I ordered a bolt kit for the case covers - polished stainless no less. The kit should be here by the end of the week. I've got company coming into town over the weekend, so there won't be much done for a few days but with a little luck I might be able to have the engine sitting in the frame by then.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


It's mowing season again and I had my first issue with the Bad Boy mower Saturday. As you can see from the photo, there isn't much in the way of a bearing in the hole on the idler pulley. It broke right after the dealer had closed so I don't know if they'll have a part in stock. There's actually two of these pulleys on the deck, so I figure I should probably get both of them replaced or see if I can press a new bearing into the other one. Since this one is missing a big chunk of the flange, it definitely needs to be replaced and I'll put a new belt on as long as I'm replacing pulleys. With my old mower, I was changing the drive belt at least three times per season. Since this is the third year for the Bad Boy, I'm ahead of the game here. Hopefully, the parts will be in stock.

I've been making a little headway on the Sportster - steady by jerks as my old Pal Joey B. used to say. I've got the crank pressed into the case, after having to machine up a little driver, and I'm sorting all the hardware. I went to one of the many auto parts stores and picked up some SAE flat washers. For those of you not too into hardware, a SAE washer has a smaller outside diameter than your run of the mill flat washer. 

Even though I live in a small community, there are five auto parts stores within bicycling distance of my house. Four of them are located on the same street. I don't know how they all stay in business, but I know that the one place is run by a couple of guys about my age, they have a full service machine shop and because they've been around, they know what's up. I walked in, grabbed some gasket sealer and threadlocker, went to the counter and asked if they carried SAE washers. The old dude said yes, I told him the size and the quantity and it was a done deal.  There's a lot to be said for doing business with guys that have been around. No explanation required, no shopping through the blister packs on the wall, just a simple transaction. Like it should be. 

I don't know how many things I've fixed over the years due to the use of the wrong hardware. English bolts stuck in a metric hole, bolts snapped off because they were a little too long and bottomed out in the hole before drawing up tight or, conversely, the hole is stripped because they used a bolt too short and there wasn't enough thread engagement - like a short reach plug in an aluminum head on Jr's dirt bike. I've welded up more than a few of those over the years. And let's not forget the ever popular coarse thread nut on the fine thread bolt or some other combination there of. It's nice that there are still places that not only speak hardware but stock it as well. Here's to the wisdom that comes with age and experience. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rockin' The Cradle

Built myself an El-Cheapo assembly stand. 16-1/2" long x 12" wide. If I was to do it over I wouldn't cut the miters on the corners quite so large but other than that, it's just the ticket. Since it was made from scrap on hand, price was nothing, as in zip, nada, zilch. After I screwed it together it dawned on me that if I flip it up-side down, it will be handy to hold one side of the cases while I install the crank and tranny. That's why I wouldn't trim the corners back quite so much - a little more stability when the cradle's on it's back. That's also why there are two holes on the near side bottom board. Those are to clear the dowel pins on the case so it will lay flat. After the case halves are assembled, I'll put a couple of clip angles on the front 2 x 4 if needed to keep the lower end steady while I'm assembling the top end.

I cleaned off the bench top, even going so far as to drag the Shop Vac out there, so I'm about ready to start assembling the engine. All of the parts have been de-greased by the previous owner so not much left to do besides trying to figure out what goes where.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sportster Parts With a Side of TIG

What looks like the beginning of a moving sale is actually boxes of the remaining parts for the Sportster. The previous owner was kind enough to sort out the engine stuff for me so I actually stand a chance of getting things all back together properly. Since I've never had one of these apart before, and I wasn't the one who took it apart, might be a little head scratching trying to put it back together. 

I think the first order of business is to spend some time reviewing the shop manual. The Harley manuals are usually pretty thorough, so with the manual and some patience, I should be able to handle it. The other thing I've been thinking that would make the job easier is an engine stand. I've got a couple of engine stands with different heads but I doubt if anything that I've got will work with the Sportster. It might be worth the time spent making a head up rather than trying to chase the engine around the bench top once the cases are assembled. J&P has one listed for $150.00. It looks simple enough to make one similar but the Harley factory manual shows the engine being worked on in what appears to be nothing more than a wooden cradle made from a couple of 2x4's. Since I'm hoping this is a one time deal, a couple of short pieces of 2x4 and about 15 minutes of labor seems like the direction I should be headed in.

After I brought the bike parts home the other day, I welded up the lid to Surly's grill. The grill had blown over in a storm and both hinges had snapped off. The cast aluminum contained a lot of zinc so it didn't weld the easiest but as Uncle Pete used to say: "It ain't much for looks but it's hell for strong". The most notable thing about this job is that I welded it with my old Miller Goldstar. The post-flow timer on the shielding gas quit working and even though I could get a new part it was going to be about $400.00 - lots of money to invest in a 50 year old welding machine that's seen a lot of service. I bought a new torch head instead that has a gas shut off valve built into it. Now it's turn on the gas, weld, turn off the gas. Not as convenient but serviceable. At least I'm getting things ship shape around here so I can actually do little jobs like this without it being a big production. Hallelujah and can I have an Amen? 

I also caught the Professors on WYCC television from Chicago. It's a 30 minute program focusing on education issues. I don't make it a habit of watching it but I really should. The exchange of diverse ideas and philosophies on important issues is both stimulating and pretty even handed. If you can catch the program where you are at, I recommend you do so. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blast Cabinet

Looky here! I finished another project after only about a year and a half. Actually, I could have used it shortly after bringing it home if need be but I wanted to have a vacuum connected to the thing in addition to having good lighting. The blue bucket to the left of the blast cabinet is a water filter. There's a baffle inside the bucket that extends down to within a couple of inches of the bottom that divides the bucket in two. you add water to the bucket and when the thing is in operation, the dust from the cabinet gets pulled into the water and is trapped there. The air entering the vacuum is then relatively clean so you don't have to clean the vacuum near as often, just change the water as needed. Haven't tried it yet but it's supposed to work. 

Scratch another one off the list.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What's All The Hub-Bub, Bub?

Made a piece for the VW while I was incommunicado. It's a hub to support the steering shaft. I started with a piece of 2" aluminum bar and bored out one end to slip over the column, the other end to accept a bronze bushing. 

I also had to mill a slot in it to allow it to slip over the tab on the column and drilled a hole so I can oil the bushing from time to time. 

After putting the steering wheel back on, I dug out the turn signal control and got that fit up as well. I'm planning on wiring the car from scratch so it won't be any extra work to wire in the turn signal switch. I need to start figuring out the dashboard for this rig. The speedometer has most of the instrumentation in it, so I won't need much else on the dash other than an ignition switch, starter button, horn button, lights and heater fan. I don't know that I need a parking light setting on the lights, but I will need something for high and low beams. Maybe a dimmer switch mounted on the floor or something on the shifter where it would be handy.

I also fixed the fan blades on the ceiling fan out in my shop. As you can tell from the photo, the fan blades had developed a serious case of the droops over the years. Those of us in the "Heavy Metal Set" can relate to that. I put a new fan in the kitchen a year or so ago and saved the blades from the old one. Of course it wasn't a straight swap, it's never that easy, but I cut them down a little, drilled some new mounting holes and I'm back in business.

The new blades are about three inches longer than the old ones so it actually works better than new. 

And for the uninformed, the Heavy Metal Set is those of us with silver in our hair, gold in our teeth and lead in our ass.