Lots of small unimportant things.  But I’m trying valiantly to avoid doing absolutely nothing now that the kids are off to college.  I’m working on accomplishing that wish list I’ve been keeping all these years.  Most of that is just tinkering but it’s fun stuff.

We drove up to Woolaroc on Saturday which is the museum up on the Frank Phillips ranch.  I don’t think I’ve been there since Erin was in a stroller.  I couldn’t even remember where it was but Google knows.  Some of it came back to me after we got there though; for example, I remember the little diorama of Indians dancing around a fire that Evan was so fascinated with when he was little.  Still there and still dancing.  We also walked around the place and saw Frank Phillips’ rich-guy retreat. It’s made to look like a rustic cabin but he was an oil baron; it’s not truly rustic. For example there was a grand piano covered with pine bark. We also ate at the little snack shack – I had the buffalo sandwich.  It is advertised to be real bison meat but I couldn’t tell because of all the barbecue sauce.

I think my favorite part was the buffalo herd.  The road into the museum goes through a preserve where the bison (and other animals) roam freely and that includes taking naps on the road itself.  They seem not to realize that we puny humans and our cars are no match for their mass (and horns).  Whenever they become aware of your car, they hop up and trot away as if in fear of us.  If they ever catch on, we’re in trouble. 

I started putting together a little circuit board that I bought from adafruit that reads the info on SIM cards.  I look forward to finding out if there’s anything interesting on my SIM.  If there’s not I guess I’m out $15 which is not bad for useful knowledge.

I also tried to do a bit of hand tool woodworking but again the heat drove me back inside.  That and some dull tools.  I brought all my sharpening gear inside and started to work away on an old router plane (or the cutter thereof) but it has apparently never been sharpened at all.  I got it from my brother who said he bought it at a BX in Germany back in the early ‘60s when he was in the army.  I ground away at it for quite awhile on a stone because it is “L” shaped and will not easily fit on my bench grinder.  I don’t fancy trying to free-hand like that but I may have to; after lots and lots of work on a coarse stone, it still didn’t come to a sharp point.  I was able to sort-of make it work but raising the cutter a bit to steepen the angle on the cutting edge.  That’s a bit unreliable but I got it sharper than it was.  Then I took it out to clean up some tenon cheeks.  Worked quite well once the cutter was sharp(er).

I then started on a chisel.  The last time I sharpened it, I had taken it over to my friend’s house who owns a Tormek.  I had thought to put a basic shape on it then; later I would have an easy time with honing the hollow-ground edge.  But he never seemed to take the guides or angle gauge seriously and didn’t know where they were.  As a result the edge I got was a bit out of square as well as being a different angle than I wanted.  So when I started to touch it up on my new diamond plate, it seems it was only grinding on the rearmost parts of the edge and part of one side of the edge.  So more work is required.  I tried just grinding it on my bench stones but that will take a long time since the one I bought is a fine/extra fine.

I learned something in the process: diamond plates are often advertised as requiring no lubricant.  They say you can use then dry but I seemed to get better results when I put a few drops of water on them.  The instructions say that you should clean them with water after each dry use anyway.  This may be my imagination – I should try it both ways now that they are broken in.  I learned that a new diamond plate is coarser than advertised until you use it for a day or so.  So all those metal filings that were clogging things up in the beginning may just be a thing you experience when it’s new.  So again, more experience with it will tell the tale.

This all just highlights the need for me to actually build an angle jig for my bench grinder and use that to establish a proper edge on everything I have.  Then honing will go more smoothly.  I hope.  I could just buy a Tormek myself but holy cow!  $500?  Get real. The biggest trouble with those is that you can’t get by with the basic tool holding jig.  You have to buy a different jig for every different tool type you have and each one is $100 at least.  By the time you have everything you need, it’s closer to $800.  I agree that it’s a wonderful thing and sharpening is a breeze with it but the price is just ridiculous.  Grizzly makes a cheap knockoff but I don’t know how well it works; some of their stuff is really nice – other stuff is crap.  I’m not sure how to tell in advance.  My table saw is wonderful – my bench vise makes me want to cry every time I use it so I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum.

I also set up my webcam-getter program to download a weather map of the hurricane every 15 minutes.  I will stack up all these images and make a movie of hurricane Irene moving up the coast of the US.  That should be interesting. 

So we kept busy this weekend.  Not bad for somebody with no particular place to be.


The air conditioning in our hangar office space has been playing up lately.  Since we’ve been suffering through record heat, this has been a bit rough but not nearly as rough as what the air conditioner repair guy has to go through.  I can’t imagine climbing up 40 feet and walking around on a metal roof when it’s 104 degrees.  That’s one tough guy.

But there is no shortage of whining inside.  Everybody but the ex-military guys whine and claim they can’t work under these conditions.  I’m guessing that if you’ve been in the military then you’ve probably been somewhere that’s extremely hot and had to eat combat rations out of your helmet at least once (all the while wearing battle gear, body armor, and lugging a full pack of heavy gear).  Furthermore, you’ve probably also had to eat the same aforementioned rations that have been heated by burning C4 explosive that you dug out of the back of a disassembled mine in subzero temperatures.  So they don’t complain – they know how good they’ve got it.

Those of us permanent civilians should probably be sent to the tropics once in awhile to tend our airplanes.  When they’re parked on a ramp in the tropical sun for hours and have to wait there for some unknown delay, and then suddenly have to start the engines and take off, it can get a bit hard to stay fresh and clean.  That will teach you to keep working when conditions are sub-optimal.  Or, as they say in this business: “off nominal”.

I try not to whine when the air conditioning goes out.  But if my house A/C goes out and I have to sleep in the heat – all bets are off.

I guess the best way we’ve found for dealing with this long and awful heat wave is to stay inside.  We’ve tried to get outside and do what needs doing early in the morning (on the weekends naturally) and then hunker down inside.  Mel and Erin have been organizing and packing for the big move to the dorm at OSU but other than that, it’s been TV.

As happens most summers, there’s nothing really on the TV to watch.  Mel has been digging through the TV schedule to find old classic movies to catch with the DVR and that’s been fun.  Then there’s the DVD collections that we either own or can borrow from others.  It’s been fun to watch a TV series from start to finish in a few days.

I’ve also learned that there are a lot of so-called “classic” movies that end up being classics simply because of some small thing that made them unique at the time.  As such, they are interesting to cinema history buffs but may still be pretty annoying to watch.  Some really stand the test of time though. 

I practice the guitar most days for a little while.  I’ve built a couple of electronics projects at my new desk.  I should probably update Erin’s graduation video like I’ve said I want to. 

So in many ways it’s been like winter.

It’s been hot enough lately that we haven’t done too much outside; as little as possible in fact.  And yet things get done.

We’ve made numerous trips to this and that store buying things for Erin’s future dorm room.  That process goes on indefinitely as the dorm she’s moving to is old fashioned and has almost no storage space for anything.  This presents an engineering problem that both Erin and Melissa relish.

Mel has also sat down and made two photo albums/scrapbooks: one from the performance of Little Shop of Horrors and the other from Erin’s graduation.  The latter is still in-work but will be done shortly.

We’ve also been getting the cars all fixed up.  Erin’s car had a water pump fail and then the air conditioner.  After taking care of that we decided to deal with all the other little things on the other cars since Melissa is not working during the summer and we can therefore put one in the shop and not have any transportation issues.  So we put Evan’s car in (We had him drive over here and get my car and leave his) to have the door lock fixed and the upholstery repaired.  That upholstery thing was there when I bought the car all those years ago and I never bothered to fix it when I drove it and now after he’s been driving it for three years, I finally dealt with it.  He’s happy though.  Then there’s my current car which has three very annoying but relatively unimportant things that I finally decided to have fixed.  So when I give it to Erin to take off to college, it will be fully functional. 

It’s expensive but it feels good to have everything taken care of and working like it should.  Like I paid for it to function originally.

In the meantime, I’ve been building a desk to put in Evan’s room for me to do my projects on.  Evan took the one that was in there (not surprisingly) so I’ve had the opportunity to build another one to my exact specifications.  I don’t actually have any specifications – I just need a flat surface so I bought another slab door along with two two-drawer file cabinets to put it on and now I have a desk for about $100.  Not quite actually; I chose to use up the remains of a can of polyurethane varnish and make the desk top a little prettier.  At least stuff won’t soak into it and stain it now when I spill something.  

Then there’s the pile of books that have accumulated that I want to read.  And also the new song I want to learn to play on the guitar.  I’ve been doing all these things and have budgeted my time rather carefully to include it all. 

The guitar song is particularly frustrating for some reason but I’m slogging on hoping that one day my fingers will miraculously just do what they’re supposed to do.  I decided quite some time ago that you can’t claim to play an instrument if you only know two or three songs.  I figure you need to be able to pick up a guitar and play for at least one hour without repeating yourself in order to claim that you know anything.  I still can’t read music and play it without some study so I have to wait until I can play from memory. By this standard, I have a long way to go although I guess I could play for about 20 minutes at this point.  I can play four or five songs although two of them are a pretty rough in places. 

I make time for some of this by playing hooky from church.  I love my spare time and I’ve had a difficult time lately finding anything to interest me at church.  This is probably pretty common for people whose kids are going off to college; the kids are no longer heavily involved at church and we realize that much of what we’ve been doing at the church has been centered around them and now we’re re-evaluating what we want to do with ourselves from now on.  I have a theory that most people are not comfortable with their own thoughts and would rather be entertained by others.  They need to be around crowds of other people or entertained by the TV.  The church fills that role for these people but I have no trouble coming up with ways to entertain myself so it can be tough choice for me to go there as opposed to doing something else.

There are some large projects on the horizon.  Our house is over thirty years old and some things need to be addressed.  Especially if we intend to make good on our goal of moving to another house that we like better.  We’ll need new countertops and flooring in the kitchen for starters.

So life goes on; full of transitions and activities.  I am very glad at this time of year (that is, the hot time of year) that I hired someone to mow my lawn for me.  That’s an activity that I have never had much of a liking for.

It has gotten hot already and there is little evidence that it will cool off any time soon.

Normally June is pretty nice and for a few years there it was relatively cool.  Usually it gets hot permanently in July and by that I mean into the mid 90’s.  Then in late July you can expect a day over 100 and several such days in August.  Not this time.

It’s been over 100 for a week or more and no end in sight.  On those days it’s been less than 100, it has been 97 or more.  On these days, Mel and I tend to act like we do in the middle of the coldest part of winter: we stay inside and watch TV.  One of the people I follow on twitter has already said “OK people.  Enough with the posting photos of your car thermometers.”  I’ve been trying to get some projects done like practicing my guitar and building some electronics projects but Evan left with the desk and I haven’t built another one yet.  Plus, Erin came home with the first two seasons of Big Bang Theory borrowed from a coworker and I’ve gotten addicted to watching those. I find much that I can relate to.

I did get one small project done: Erin’s wand.  She’s going to the premier of the Harry Potter movie along with a bunch of other people.  She’s had her ticket purchased for over a month.  They don’t usually do this but they’re going to dress up.  It’s easy for them because they still have their robes from graduation.  She crocheted a Gryfindor style scarf and asked me to make her a wand on “my spinning thingy”, i.e., my lathe. So I got out early last Saturday morning to take care of that before it got too hot. (BTW, all my turning tools are so dull that they almost don’t work.  There’s something else I have to take care of.)

My biggest problem with the heat is the sweat that runs down my forehead and into my eyes.  For this I have always employed a sweat band around my head but ever since John McEnroe retired from tennis these have been hard to come by.  I finally found one on Amazon that advertises to be the best of the breed.  I bought one to test it and if it works I will stock up.  I don’t like hats that much for this purpose; I have to pull them down so far that they get annoying vis-à-vis my glasses. If this doesn’t work I have toyed with the notion of applying underarm antiperspirant to my forehead.  This is definitely one of those first-world problems and as such I don’t put too much thought into it except when I see something on the “cool tools” website touting the “best sweatband”.

Evan had returned home for that day in order to keep an appointment at the optometrist so I had a second opinion as to how it looked.  It looked good.  A quick application of stain, some shellac, and it was ready to swish and flick.  Wingardium Leviosa!

So the high heat isn’t so bad after all.  Unless I have to go outside.