Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Shop

The first month of this new year ends in about three and a half hours. Whoof, is time going fast! Today I hit the shop with both barrels, garbage barrels that is. And a few empty cardboard boxes and a Rubbermaid tote or two as well. All to collect those bits of detritus that are no longer welcome in my shop space.

You understand, of course, that I hoard things by nature. Nothing is of no value unless it absolutely can not be made into anything else. And so I collect and compile and store for years. Until the collecting and compiling and storing takes up the majority of space in the shop and I cannot do a thing in there except wander from pile to pile wishing I could do something with all of the stuff I've saved.

Well, enough is enough. I've picked out a few of my favorite projects, a few builds that I have all of the parts for and such, and I am literally pitching the rest in the rubbish pile!

It is quite liberating, but also rather sad. So much good stuff is going into the garbage. (And by "good" I mean any scrap of wood greater than 2 cubic inches, or any scrap of metal that I dream I can re-fabricate into something useful. So in reality, there is just junk going into the junk pile.)

A few more days like today and the shop will actually be a workable area!

Not too many hours left in today though, and I still want to do a bit more. So...

More Later

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whee! Wii! Wee!

All's quiet in the house. A rare occurrence with a very active four year old boy and a nine month old who has discovered that not only is it OK to make noise while the Boyo is doing his best Taz impression, but that she can also out-vocalize him as well. Of course the Boyo loves this exchange of sound and ups the ante whenever possible.

As the Wife says so accurately, it is a wall of sound in our house. From wake up to fall asleep. Beautiful chaos.


The Wife has challenged me to focus. To focus on getting the shop up and running as a business. To focus on what I love to do. To focus on being happy. I've decided to take her up on the challenge! Because in the end, I only get one time around at this life. So if I am not happy, then I need to be taking steps to get happy.

I've started cleaning out the shop and getting geared up for some really fun projects. Shop clean out is going well. I'm done storing things. That is a huge switch. I tend to hoard things. Wood, metal, various parts and pieces. Just in case I need it for something later. But my shop space is limited, and it is full. I can't do the things I want to until I have more space. So logically, the junk must go! I live within spitting distance of a Lowe's and a Menard's, and a big old junkyard packed full of goodies to scavenge if and when the need arises. There is also enough construction going on at any given time that I frequently drive by dumpsters full of good wood and other odds and ends. So I'll scavenge when I need to and clear the stuff from my workspace!

Since the welder belonging to my father is currently in another state, my next projects are going to be mostly wood. I'm going to start bow building in a couple of weeks! I also have a couple of knives to finish, and I think I'd like to build a few bird houses and bird feeders...just for fun! Those last two are also something the Boyo can help with, and he'll dig that!


Also, we got a Wii for Christmas! And a Wii Fit set up. Now, it's been a good many years since I was in fighting trim, but I still have that Marine mindset that I can just go and do anything. My body, on the other hand, has failed to keep me informed of just how much muscle mass it has forfeited to Father Time. I think it was too busy enjoying the food to notice. I did the Wii Fit assessment thingy and it gave my Wii Fit age as 33. I didn't think that was too shabby for a 37 year old! So I started doing the exercises and stuff.

Guess what! I'm a 37 year old with great balance! That apparently is the major thing the Wii Fit board looks at, cause some of those little exercise games kicked my rear end! I've been at it a week now, and I'm still sore all over! And every time I exercise with it, it unlocks new games and training levels just to kick my butt even more!

It will be a great kick start for an actual exercise program though. And it is pretty fun!

The Boyo loves the Wii too. Which is great for his behavior. He gets to play if he's been a good boy the day before. Any transgressions and his Wii time gets cut down a bit. He's been oddly over cooperative and charming since the Wii came home. Above and beyond his usual self! And it turns out that he is a savant Wii bowler! He dances around, clicks the buttons and makes the little avatar scoot around, then he throws the ball without aim or reason. It's enough to make one want to tie the real Boyo down into his chair. Except the last game we bowled together, he scored a 179. He marked in every frame but the tenth, and had I think three or four strikes!

If anything, he has made me take game playing (and myself) much less seriously!


For the record, puppies have small bladders. Holly was cooped up most of the day because we were out and about. We have been careful about feeding/watering when we know we'll be gone for a time, but then she'll just gorge herself on snow when she goes out before we leave. Unfortunately we were gone just a little too long today, about three hours. The Wife has laundered Holly's bed. She's a pretty good dog though.

Well. I think it's bedtime. The Wife works the next couple of days, so it'll just be me and the kiddos hanging out and having fun.

More Later

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Today is the birthday of my mom. She is the unsung hero of the family. Growing up she did the laundry and kept us in line and all that.

She loves to make "pages" of pictures that we can put in albums to record our family history in a visual form, and she has amazing skills as a photo shopper. She can erase a person from a picture without a trace! All the more reason to stay on her good side! But she uses her powers for good, often editing out blinks and weird faces, moving people closer together, even adding people to pictures so their presence is recorded.

Totally devoted to family, she has an unending love of my father, of her kids and a devotion to her grand kids.

She's an amazing lady, and I'm glad she's my Mom.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Love you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Are One

John McCain would have made a decent President. Seriously. The next four years would have been fine. Probably much the same as the next four years are going to be anyway. It still would have taken a long time to figure out the economic mess. The wars we're in would have continued. The sun would go up and down. Yada, yada, Yoda.

Yesterday I watched the "We Are One" inauguration kick off at the Lincoln Memorial. I watched it on our computer after I awoke from recovering from a night shift. It was a heck of a concert, and the speakers were amazing. But several times I found myself watching with a lump in my throat, and even a tear in my eye. This was rather curious, as I don't usually well up at concerts.

So I'm sitting there with Sweet Pea on my lap, the Boyo in the chair next to me, both of them bopping along in time with the music. The Wife sitting nearby, enjoying the event again. (She got to watch it live the first time) The Boyo was singing along with some of the songs. (He watched the concert with Mommy once earlier in the day, and already memorized some of the songs.) And I'm analyzing why I've got tears in my eyes as James Taylor is playing "Shower the People (with Love)".

Hope. I think that's what it is. I feel hopeful for my country. In the last eight years I've run the gamut of emotions. Anger. Frustration. Disbelief. Exasperation. Hopelessness. All because of the actions and behaviors of a few of our top leaders. I even seriously considered a move to Canada or Italy or Scotland (and I've never even been to Scotland). But then figured I'd have to spend a lot of time apologizing to foreigners in their own countries.

"Truly, Ma'am. I am sorry for my government. Please believe we are not all like that!"

I might have had to wear a tee-shirt continuously apologizing for the hair brained leadership we've had to endure. I've watched and listened in the past couple of weeks as King George II has tried valiantly to lock in his place in history. Mostly by revising or denying facts from the past eight years. Or, my favorite tactic, asking history to look at the great things he's done elsewhere.

"George Bush has really helped the African people, with his policies and aid for malaria, HIV/AIDS, and various other African social and health issues."

Well, yes. He has done some great things for some parts of the African continent. (We'll leave out all of the genocide and ongoing wars over there for now) But the important thing to remember, and I don't think history will forget this part... he was not the President of Africa. He was supposed to be OUR President!

John McCain would have done fine. Not much would have changed in the American psyche though.

What Obama has done is inspired the nation again. Maybe not all of us. But an amazing portion of us. He has instilled the country with a pride in being Americans again. Given us HOPE that our country can be what it was meant to be once more. Most importantly, and I don't think I'm alone here, I don't feel like I'm going to need to apologize for his behaviors. He will restore the Presidency to what it should be. An office not only commanding respect, but showing it. He will speak eloquently, and intelligently. He will be classy, which is desperately needed in that office right now. And I hope (believe) that other countries will see us once again as a country worth believing in. One that brings hope and help to the world, not hatred and oppression.

As I watched the big names and thousands in D.C. singing "This Land is Your Land" I stood up with my daughter and sang along. The Boyo boogied next to me, singing along, and I had HOPE once more that we could finally understand that we all are, indeed, one.

More Later

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Human Powered Helicopters

Back in 1989, in Smithsonian magazine, there was an article on Human Powered Helicopters. More specifically, a challenge laid down for someone to do it.
In the past twenty years only two teams of uber-brainiacs have managed to build HPH's that work...sort of. One is called the Da Vinci III and it's best flight was an 8 inch flight that lasted 7.1 seconds.
The other is called the Yuri I. It managed 0.2 meters (which is 7.8 inches) and lasted a whopping 19.46 seconds.

Both of these, as you can see, are enormous. The rotors spin from 15 - 25 rotations per minute. The pilot/engines are very light and nearly always Olympian bicyclers. There are many other projects out there (check out for more info.)
After reading the article in 1989, I ruminated on it for all of an hour or so before an answer to the problem seemed to present itself. I'm going to play my cards close to my vest here, lest anyone steal my idea. Hee hee. But there was always a singular flaw in my design having to do with counter rotation and durability of parts.
Anyway, as I dreamed the other night, I found myself in a pasture with nothing else around but a few trees, a couple of clouds, and my finished HPH, which I named 'The Grasshopper' all those years ago. I stared at it, knowing that in the current configuration it might fly, but would be really hard to control. As I stared at it, a real grasshopper hopped on the rotor blade, shook it's legs, and hopped off. I watched it leap off into the tall grass, and was suddenly hit with inspiration! A grasshopper doesn't leap well with one leg. Why would I think The Grasshopper would fly with one rotor? In my dream, I reconfigured it into two separate designs, pretty radically different than the original. I climbed into one and started pedaling. Pretty soon it was all spooled up and I lifted it of into the clear sky. It worked like a charm!
I was so excited that I actually awoke from my dream and could not get back to sleep. So I sketched out a few rough plans, did a little math, that sort of thing, just to test the dream version. Turns out it might work better than the original plan!
If I only had the money to build a proof of concept flyer. It would be very interesting to see if it actually worked! Maybe someday... I suppose if I ever do build it, and it does fly, I won't be able to keep it under wraps. It would be cool to have the prototype hanging in the Smithsonian, next to the Gossamer Albatross (that would be the first Human Powered Airplane that flew across the English Channel).
Oh, and if you're interested, the reward for the challenge is $20,000. The only requirements are to fly a HPH to a height of 10 feet (or 3 meters) at least for a moment, to keep the craft airborne for a full minute, and to stay within a certain area. My requirements for a HPH is to be able to fly to any height I want, for as long as I can pedal, and to travel about wherever I want. Maybe I'll enter it in RAGBRAI some year. :)
Ah, the life of a dreamer.
More Later

Friday, January 16, 2009

Things to Gripe About

I understand that there are many on the planet whose lives are more difficult than mine. I see many of them at work, read about many more in the news. But sometimes I just gotta vent.

Here are some things that have so bogged me down of late that it makes it hard to get out of bed some days...

1. Work. Much has happened in the past couple of months. I'll expand upon it all later, when more things are resolved. But for now I'll say this. I'm tired of some of the petty people I work with who have so little going on in their lives that they feel the need to create drama in the workplace. Being two faced and backstabbing generally is frowned upon by higher thinkers, so advice to you (and I'm sure you know who you are) get a life outside of work. Stop believing that you are the only one who does anything around there and let people do their jobs in peace. And in the name of all that is holy, please find a nice member of the opposite gender and spend some quality intimate time with them, for I think that's where most of your frustration lies. Stop taking it out on the rest of us.

2. Stupid People. You would think that living in the Northern states for extended periods of time would condition people to the fact that winter happens, snow falls, and roads might be bad. Unfortunately it seems that every winter season there are those who somehow forget the twenty or thirty previous winter driving experiences they have had and manage to freak out when it snows. Here's a hint. If you are too scared to drive in it. DON"T DRIVE IN IT! Oh, and no matter how slowly or erratically you are driving, the street signs should still be followed. "Stop" still means STOP. Don't pull out in front of me going twelve MPH and expect me to be happy about having to swerve on ice. "Left Turn Only" means get in that lane to turn left, don't do it from the middle of the road. Most importantly, when the road divides and the little arrow on the sign indicates that you should stay to the right of the road island, for the love of Mike, VEER TO THE RIGHT! I'm sure that eighty ton semi truck was more than happy to hit the shoulder because you were headed down the wrong side of the street, but one day you might not have such a friendly trucker approaching you.

3. Time. I know. I know. Time doesn't really exist, just our perception of it. But it seems like the only time that Time crawls is when I am at work and the chores are done and the patients are gone and the only thing left to do is watch my co-workers nap. (We'll get to this in future posts too. Don't worry.) Otherwise the sun seems to race across the sky, intent on shortening the Time I want to do the things I want to do. I've tried some time management things, but you know, those are ideal on paper, but don't seem to pan out well in the real world.

4. Injustices of the world that I can do nothing about. I get to see some real whiners in my line of work, and not just my patients. I would love to have flash cards with pictures of people with real life threatening problems on them. Sort of like a soccer yellow card. When I hear whining like (use your best nasally voice here) "I'm so hungry! I haven't eaten since lunch!" I could whip out the picture of the little four year old African orphan crawling to an aid station for food, being followed by a vulture, and knowing that the aid station was another several miles away. (That photographer won a Pulitzer for the picture, but ended up killing himself) Or "Oh that hurts so bad! This is the worst pain ever!" when their injury is nearly non existent. Then I could pull the picture of the family hit by the drunk driver. Only the Mom survived and from the ambulance cot she's looking at and reaching for her bloody, expired family. Sometimes life stinks a bit. Get over it, it could be worse.

And with that in mind, my gripes don't really seem like all that much. Sure I'd love to have more time, more money, some better co-workers and managers. But in general, I do have time to do some fun things. I do have enough money for food, clothing, shelter and to help out others, and I do work with a great majority of really fine people who do their jobs great and are fun to work with. So I'll get over it, and I am over it! It could be worse!

In the course of this blog, I went from frustrated and angry, to rather chipper and relaxed! Amazing what a little venting can do. A little perspective and insight, even if it comes from myself. Nice.

OK, now that I'm relaxed, I'm going to bed. Tomorrow I'll tell you about a dream I had last night. The one wherein I solved a problem that has been bothering me for twenty years!

More Later

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I've Been Busy Elsewhere

I had the first eleven days of the year off, and I have to say, it was great! I spent much time getting caught up on projects that I've been neglecting for too long, and thinking through a great many things about life.

I've been spending time in the shop, probably more in the last week than I've been able to in the last six months. And you know what? I really like building things. Really, really a lot. I like taking some raw materials and turning them into an awesome knife, or a beautiful stained glass piece, or (my latest experiment) a little bow and arrow set for the Boyo. Yes, he's a bit young for weapons, but he's on a Robin Hood kick, and ever since his cousin got a bow and arrow at the Rendezvous that we went to, he's been after me for a bow and arrow. And after my archery class, I thought it would be fun to teach him to shoot this spring.

But I digress.

I like the challenge that comes with creating. I love the time I spend in the shop. That's what I really like doing.

The Wife put forth a challenge for me. She challenged me to "make some money" with the stuff I make in the shop. I've decided to take her up on the challenge. So one of my resolutions for this new year is to sell something each month. The rules though ('cause I'm all about the rules) say that I have to sell it for a profit. So if I spend $80 on materials for a knife, it has to sell for more than that. I have a pretty good system for estimating what glass would cost, or a wood project, or metal, or whatever. So I'm going to go for it. Wish me luck.

Well, my break time is over. I'm staying up late tonight to get turned around for my night shifts as a paramedic. I'm spending the time finishing up the last knife for a guy at work. He gave me materials ages ago to build knives for him and his two sons, and I'm finally getting around to the last one. I'll post some pictures of them when they're finished. Until then...

More Later

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year!

Five days in and so much has happened!

We enjoyed a wonderful second Christmas with my folks to start off the new year. My brother and his family were there, and my sister and her family provided the venue. So the whole clan was together. It was a blast. My sibs and I got to play a few songs together, something that hasn't happened for too long. It was the best part of the trip for me, and we had many really great parts.

Upon returning home, the Wife went to work, and I went to pick up the dogs, who were staying at the local dog spa. Technically it's a kennel, but Ben thinks it's a spa, and has many canine friends there. Apparently he showed Holly the ropes, as the kennel folks said they had a great time together. Upon bringing them home, I brought them both upstairs, fully expecting to be sort of starting over with Holly. Much to my surprise though, the two of them started playing together in the kitchen. I watched in awe for a while, and then they got tired and crashed onto the floor, RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER, with no growling or snarling! Now it seems they are great pals. As I type this they are both lying contentedly on their dog beds, not more than a few feet from each other, and Ben is fine with it!

Holly is doing great with her memory too. She sits and stays on command, and has finally come to understand the 'going out' process. When Shoba and Rascal were here, I would have them all sit by the door. Then I would open the door and they would all continue to sit patiently until I said their name and 'go'. I could vary the order, and none of the three would go until I said they could. Now Holly has the hang of it too, making it much easier to let them out. She sticks to our yard as well. She has quickly become a welcome fourth dog for us. (Even though only two are still alive.)

The Wife and I were comparing dog notes, and it turns out that of all the dogs we've ever been privileged to be in a pack with, they have all been black or mostly black with the exception of one for me and one for her growing up. Perhaps we are destined to only have black dogs.

Anyway, all are healthy and happy here. I am hoping the new year finds you the same, and may the year bring you great joy and many good memories.

More Later