June 2004

Here's the secret to strawberries: patience. We've been patient with our strawberry plants through the simple expedient of completely ignoring them for three years and they have now grown and taken over the entire raised bed. When all the other vegetables died off last year, the strawberries secretely began their expansion plans until this spring, they were hanging over the side like the hanging gardens of Babylon. We got bowls and bowls of strawberries out of that little 4X8 patch.

We started with six teeny plants from Home Depot.

First year, maybe one berry. Second year maybe one soupbowl full. Third year – Jackpot!

Not only that but this year, they have started bearing fruit again! A second crop! Sadly, we'll miss some of them since they'll be bearing fruit while we're on vacation but the house-sitters can have them I suppose. Payment for feeding the dog and the ferret.

It's no wonder I can't lose any weight with all this fruit (and its obligatory sugar coating).

There's a scene in “School of Rock” where Jack Black is lecturing on the history of rock&roll and he's standing in front of the chalkboard which contains a great detailed diagram of rock history.

Anybody know where I can get a copy of that diagram?

No particular reason – just think it's cool.

Mel's sister is having a nice round birthday (multiple of ten) soon and so Mel, her mom, and her SIL decided to take the aforementioned sister to Dallas for the weekend. They left early Saturday morning and got back late last night. Everyone seemed pleasantly exhausted.

She had a great deal to say about it but it can adequately be summarized with the single word: “shopping”. And they didn't go to The Bass Pro Shop. Go figure.

They stayed at the Gaylord Texan hotel which, from all accounts, it quite fabulous with bellhops and everything. And a life sized stuffed horse in the lobby. Yee hah!

Apparently, it was a whirlwind trip that was worth taking. Everybody had fun. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had fun of our own – it involved watching a number of movies on TV and shooting off fireworks. To each his own.

We bought our first fireworks of the season Saturday. I'd been thinking about it and when the kids mentioned it, I stopped at the first stand we came to. I can recall my Dad used to do the same and he'd spend about $10 on the same amount of fireworks that we can get for $10 now – in other words, while everything else in the world has increased in price since the '70s, fireworks seem to have stayed the same or even decreased in value. That's good news for me and all my fellow pyros.

As we stood in our driveway in a cloud of smoke, who but the school board president should come strolling by. She studied us carefully – she knows who we are since Mel is a PTA mom and Evan occasionally hangs out with her son. At least I hope she gave me points for providing adult supervision. I mean how many parents really supervise that sort of thing?

It wasn't even all that hot this weekend so it was that much easier to enjoy ourselves. Both kids have a favorite and it seems to be those little paper tanks that shoot sparks and firecrackers out of their barrels. Then they both like to take a sparkler and torch the spent tank until it's a smoldering wreck. Evan used to have some little green army men but those have long since been melted and burned.

We'd better get it all out of our systems soon, we're leaving on vacation in the 3rd and won't have a chance to shoot any fireworks on the actual holiday.

ARRGGH! I hate it when this happens. I woke up this morning with the deep-down-in-my-soul certainty that it was Saturday. Of course, Mel wanted to know why I wasn't getting up and then the truth hit me.

Boy, that's dissappointing!

In that classic Southern tradition Vacation Bible School yesterday, they apparently went over that old line from one of the Gospels (notice how I don't actually know which one) where Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men”. In order to drive that point home, they took dead fish, painted them with a heavy coat of paint, and smushed that with a piece of cloth thus making a little picture of the fish.

I'm glad I wasn't in charge of that craft project. Stinky. It must be dissapointing to the fish to get to fish heaven and realize that they gave their lives for such a purpose and not to provide a meal for someone.

Oddly enough, the picture itself doesn't smell fishy.

Tonight we finally decided to start painting Evan's new electric guitar that we built. We took it all apart and bought some spraypaint. It is the color of my truck (coincidentally).

Should look good when we're done. Photos to follow.

I've got the book catalog for you: Lindsay's Technical Books. It's just chock full of books you never imagined before. They fall into two categories: ancient books about long forgotten machines from the turn of the century and how-to books on how to do the most unlikely things. For example:

A series called “Build Your Own Machine Shop from Scrap”. This series
begins with a short book that teaches the reader how to make a forge
out of a flower pot and barbecue charcoal to melt aluminum scraps.
One can then make a mold in sand, pour in the molten metal, and cast
machine parts. From there, the series uses the casting techniques to
produce a metal-cutting lathe which is then used to build other
metalworking tools. It's pretty amazing. The author comes right out
and say that he wanted some nice metalworking tools but didn't want to
spend more than $50.

In fact, there are many books on how to build forges that melt metal.
Apparently, there are lots of men out there who feel the need to
produce their own molten metal and cast it into parts. Who knew?

After all this, you can take advantage of another group of books that
describe how to build your own engines. The engines shown are, for
the most part, strange designs from the early days of internal
combustion. Designs that never caught on for one reason or another
but the web site has little movies of actual running models that the
authors have built. Why would anyone do this? Because they're

There are others on how to convert your automobile from gasoline to
other fuels. They cover alcohol, gas that you derive from coal and
other products, and water (producing hydrogen from it obviously).
There's also one on converting from gasoline to electricity.

Then there's the category of self sufficiency. There's a reprint of a
1935 depression era tome on how to subsistence farm on five acres.
There's one called “what to do when the power goes out.” Then there
are the books on preserving vegetables and fruit. Not to mention the
books on distilling your own alcohol (fuel and/or consumable).

All in all, they are very strange topics and yet I find them all
strangley fascinating. I bought the series on building a machine shop
out of scrap and I have a strong urge to go out into the back yard and
start melting aluminum in the barbecue grill. I could create a metal
lathe for (so it claims) about $10 worth of scrap aluminum. A new
lathe like that would cost upwards of $1500 but I suspect that the
time spent in building it, if you assigned yourself a dollar per hour
rate, would exceed $1500. The books of course do not address that.
Plus, if you have more time than money this would be the way to go I
guess. Melissa would of course object strongly to the idea of
creating funny-smelling fires in the back yard (and justifiably so)
but it still sounds fun to me.

I think I'll buy the one titled “Caveman Chemistry.”

I finished Evan's room Saturday morning with a couple coats of paint and some hangers on the walls for his guitars. It looks pretty good now. It needs a few decorating touches but Mel will get around to that. That left plenty of time for us to try and do a father's day thing early.

We went to a restaurant on the old Route 66 called “Ollie's Station” which was full of model trains. They had four different tracks running around various parts of the ceiling and bits of memorabilia everywhere. The food was good too.

Then yesterday (the actual day), we got out of church and decided to throw caution to the wind and try for a father's day lunch anyway. It was touch and go there for awhile but we got into El Lorito and enjoyed ourselves. We then went home and I watched “American Chopper” for awhile until I drifted off to sleep. Finally, we rousted ourselves out of the house and went to see “Around the World in 80 days.”

The best part: nobody ever asked me to get up and do anything. I didn't even have to remind them.

I don't like wallpaper; I never liked it that much but when we decided
a few years back to hang some, I really knew that I didn't like it.
It is evil from the viewpoint of hanging it. As far as how it look,
well… I don't feel that strongly about that.

But the installation requires such an extreme precision with a large,
wet, floppy piece of fragile paper that it just makes me crazy. If
you get off by even a fraction of a degree, your errors will compound
to the point that it will look horrible by the time you're around the
room and back where you started.

So, what's my point? We just hung a photo-mural.

Evan wanted to re-do his room this summer. I think his goal was
pretty much just to hang his guitars from hooks and maybe paint it a
different color but after a bit of brainstorming it was decided to do
a bit more and, among other things, install a photo-mural of a forest

It's different from typical wallpaper in several ways. These things
come in 8 big sections and one pastes them to the wall in a manner
similar to working a puzzle. But they are made of paper more like
posters and less like wallpaper ; the important point being that they
are pretty fragile when wet and tend to wrinkle (but the wrinkles
smooth out as it dries). The paste that was included with the kit was
the most worthless crap I've ever encountered; it was only marginally
thicker than water. I applied the first coat to the paper and it
promptly soaked in or dried up. I applied a second coat which reduced
the poster section to such a state of fragility that I was afraid to
handle it too much or apply more so we hung it up on the wall. We
frantically held it there and smoothed it out (gently) for some
minutes until it finally clung tenuously to the wall. The middle part
stuck ; the edges didn't do so well. Nothing that a little DUCO
cement wouldn't fix though. After that debacle, I decided to revert
to plan B: 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. I bought a couple of cans and
got to work.

Looking back, I guess I should have suspected something was amuck ;
the instructions that came with the mural differed greatly from the
installation tips on the web site where we bought it. It was the web
site that recommended the spray adhesive and they're tips seemed to
make more common sense.

This is good stuff but it really smells (stinks). I had to show ID to
buy it which suggests that some brain-damaged individuals somewhere
have gotten high by huffing the fumes. I can testify to the fact that
you can inhale some pretty strong concentrations without any effect
other than a bit of gagging and the beginnings of a headache so I
don't understand the huffing thing at all. Spraying this stuff in
large quantities results in your arm hairs getting sticky and your
arms acting like big post-it notes. Your nostrils also get sticky –
on the inside! Freaky. Your fingers get to the point of having
picked up enough dust and dirt to become black which is kind of …
different. I know that I should have been wearing a filter mask but
that never crosses my mind for some reason.

But it works. The photo mural is up and looking pretty good. Because
it's a photograph and has lots of busy details and textures in it, one
can fudge on the precise alignment between panels and not have it be
too noticeable. But I dread the day we try to take it down. That
spray adhesive is pretty aggressive.

It's looking good now. The famous Lionel
is, sadly, uninstalled but is carefully preserved for the
next project that needs a train.

Now we paint. That's something I can handle. I can also handle
anything else – just don't ask me to hang wallpaper.

Next Page »