Friday, April 30, 2010
There's a big immigration reform protest march planned for Dallas this weekend. I was listening to the news this morning and heard an interview with a local Methodist Pastor who was leading a group of his congregation to march in support of "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" - which of course to most of the protesters apparently means amnesty for all current Illegal Immigrants and a continuation of the weak enforcement of current federal border and immigration laws. It seems that several area churches are going out and marching along with the protesters to show support.
I don't get it.
I understand the Christian Churches compulsion to help who they see as "in need". I get that part. I would understand completely if churches chose to band together and reach out to help LEGAL immigrants get started in this country. I could also appreciate if these groups donated their time, money, and resources to helping people navigate the established process for entering this country LEGALLY. If they chose to do these things - I'd applaud and admire them for their efforts.
What I don't get is these religious groups throwing their lot in with people who want to encourage illegal immigration into our country?
Dealing with Illegal Immigration is not a compassion issue. Its not a race issue. Its a Law and Order issue, and a national security issue.
I will never, ever, use the term "Undocumented Worker" to describe someone who made the choice to enter this country illegally. They are, and always will be, Illegal Aliens. If someone chose to enter this country by illegal means, then they made a conscious decision to break the law as their very first action in my country. I won't accept glazing over that point, or ignoring it, or dismissing it simply by changing the name of the transgressor from Illegal Alien to Undocumented Worker.
Until the illegality of their entry into this country is resolved, all other points of their status, situation, and future are dead on the table as far as I am concerned. I live in a Border State, and have to deal with this issue on a daily basis both in my personal life and my professional life. I read the results of the national poll showing 60% of all Americans support laws similar to the one Arizona enacted recently.
I think the percentage would be much higher if the citizens in less directly affected states had ANY IDEA of the extent of the problem and the dangers it presents to our country.
A Nation that does not control its own borders, won't be a Nation for very long.
I know nothing about her, except that she's extremely popular among devotees of Korean Models. I can completely understand why.
I'll also go out on a limb here, and assume that she doesn't indulge in Chicken Fried Steak and Chocolate Pie anywhere near as frequently as I do :)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Its an AP image from an Iranian Military Parade on Sunday. I've never seen Ghillie Suited Soldiers marching in a Military Review Parade before. Thought it was kinda odd....
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Pistol-packing Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a message for wily coyotes out there: Don't mess with my dog.
Perry told The Associated Press on Tuesday he needed just one shot from the laser-sighted pistol he sometimes carries while jogging to take down a coyote that menaced his puppy during a February run near Austin.
You can read the whole thing, but that pretty much sums it up :)
The AP reporter refers to the laser sight as a "laser pointer" at one point, and I thought it funny that the Department of Public Safety's Spokesperson's last name is "Mange"...
Does YOUR Governor exercise his Second Amendment right?
Monday, April 26, 2010
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will lay a key plank of his strategy to mend ties with the Islamic world on Monday when he hosts a summit to boost economic development in Muslim nations.
I found this part particularly ridiculous:
As part of Obama's plan the United States is poised to award contracts through its multi-million-dollar Global Technology and Innovation Fund, designed to spur investments in the Muslim world. The government-backed Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is running the competition, has received a deluge of applications, which officials say is itself a sign of improving ties. Each chunk of funding awarded by OPIC is expected to be worth between 25 and 150 million dollars.
So, we are flinging out cash at the rate of 25 to 150 million dollars a shovel full, and people are lining up to take it (duh!). These geniuses see this as evidence of success in "improving ties" with the Muslim world??
Maybe if we give them everything, they'll positively love us.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
That's the Circa 1917 Water Heater that I found at a flea market last summer. Its been sitting buried in my shop for the longest time. I got a wild hair this weekend and decided to move it to the front of the project line. So what am I going to do with this thing?
I've always loved old wood burning parlor heaters. You almost never see them down here in my part of the country, and when you do they are hundreds of dollars. I decided to modify this heater a bit, to approximate the look of an old victorian parlor heater, while also using it as a small storage cabinet.
First order of business, get the heavy crap out of the inside. I was able to heave the beast up on to my workbench. Believe me, she ain't light. Here's a look inside with the unit laying on its side. The door is spring loaded, so the stick is there to keep the door open.
That's copper tubing, coiled up inside, and a big cast iron gas burner in the bottom that would have supplied the heat. I was able to get all that out with surprisingly little difficulty. Just a matter of hacksawing through the pipes connected to the pressure regulators and valves attached outside.
Speaking of which.....
That's the control valves and what-not attached to the outside of the water heater. I'm really glad whoever salvaged this old girl decided to leave them attached to the heater. They are pretty grungy and have lots of tarnish and "patina" on them in this shot. Getting them off the heater without breaking the bracket casting was sort of a chore, but once I got them off and dissassembled it didn't take me long to spruce them up:
I cleaned them just enough to bring back the shine - but they still have the old weathered look about them.
If you notice an extra knob in the "after" picture, its because I added a left-over blowtorch control knob that I had in my parts bin. I've always thought it was interesting looking and had been saving it for a project like this. I'm also going to look for a brass steam/pressure gauge to add to the array, if I can find one I like at a decent price.
I really should have sent the heater out for sandblasting. I opted for the old wirewheel chucked in a drill method instead, which worked fine - but took me a while. The rust wasn't too bad on the outside. Initially, I was going to use Stove Black (also known as Stove Polish) on the outside of the heater. I used some several years ago on a small woodstove that belonged to my Grandfather and really liked the look it gave.
Unfortunately, the store where I got the stove polish back then no longer carries any - and I couldn't remember the brand name of the polish that I used before. I experimented with another brand that I found elsewhere, but its really been a disappointment. Not at all as good as my previous experiences with Stove Polish.
So.... I'm thinking about trying to paint the unit with conventional spraypaint - probably a satin black color so it has a bit of sheen but isn't glossy. I don't know about shooting paint on top of the stove polish, but I guess I'll give it a try next weekend. I'll scuff it and wipe it down with thinner first. Maybe it'll hold.
If it doesn't yield good results, I'll "punt" and take the heater somewhere to have it sandblasted so I can start over with a clean slate.
The path to wondrous steampunk creations isn't always straight and trauma free :)
More updates to follow, when I have something new to report.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
There's a small, nondescript brick building near where I work. No windows, no blinking lights, and they really don't even have a parking lot. There's a small business inside that doesn't operate on a national, or even state-wide level. In fact, I'm pretty sure that no one outside of the town itself has even heard of it. It only occupies half of the small brick building.
This small business is only open for about 5 months of the year, yet I'm told that the owner makes so much money during those few months that she doesn't work at all the rest of the year.
So what's fueling this locomotive of commerce?
Yeah... I don't get it either. People here go nuts for this lady's snowcones like you wouldn't believe. This past Monday was her opening day of the "season". It was drizzling rain, the wind was out of the north, and the highs didn't get much above the high 50s. Yet people flocked to stand in line out front and get a ball of ground up ice with flavoring and food coloring.
Don't believe me?
Here's a shot of the place, showing part of the line and part of the pile of cars parked in vacant lots surrounding it. The snowcone place is in the small red brick building on the left side of the picture.
Here's part of the line of people standing in the cold drizzle.
There will be lines like this all summer long, every day, even when the temps are brutal. What ever she's doing, she's sure doing it right. Makes me happy to see someone tapping into a market and succeeding like this.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
From the salt in our food,
to our healthcare insurance,
to the kinds of cars we drive,
to the types of lightbulbs we use,
to the "smart meters" in our houses,
to where we bank,
to what kinds of legal agreements we can enter into,
to our financial agreements,
to how much water our toilets use,
to what our kids learn in school,
to who gets to live or die,
to what lives have value,
to which group is "special",
to where you get your official news,
to where you can smoke,
to what you can say on the internet,
to how much you can earn,
to who "deserves" the money you earn,
to what medical treatment you rate,
to where and how you can protect yourself,
to what is the "truth",
to the definition of what is "science",
to what foods you can eat,
to what your menu looks like,
to who is a "patriot",
to who is a rascist,
to what is hate speech,
to what is free speech,
to what is "fair"......
The list goes on and on, and they want control of ALL OF IT.
Remember that the next time someone from the Federal Government starts a sentence with "Don't you think it would be a good idea if people would..."
Or my personal favorite: "I think everyone would agree that..."
Those phrases will immediately be followed by a proposal for a new law, handed down from Washington, and designed to take control of your life from you.
US Citizens are guaranteed the Right to largely govern themselves at a local level (individual states) via the 10th amendment - which protects States Rights against overbearing Federal interference. We are supposed to be able to largely tailor our laws and society at a State level so that they reflect our values, morals, and ideals more closely. If you find yourself living somewhere that doesn't "fit", you have the ability to seek out an area of our country that more closely aligns with your values, morals, and ideals. You have the Right to pursue happiness.
The Federal Government one-size fits all Nanny State strives to destroy that.
By interesting, of course, I mean creepy as hell.
I went to a trailer park this week that's a pretty rough place. We get calls here regularly for one thing or another. Usually stray dogs, animal cruelty complaints, and animal bites. There are tar heroin and crack dealers, and there's been at least one murder in the "trailer-hood" during the past year.
This is the trailer that I went to this time... pretty classy, huh?
Looks like a typical run-down trailer at first glance, with the trash on the porch, crap half-way hanging off the walls, and incredibly dirty windows. Upon closer look its even creepier:
Notice the skull eerily leering out the window to the right of the door? How about the little skulls dangling from the wires edging the porch roof?
Snazzy. Right off the cover of Better Homes and Crypts. Or maybe Better Homes and Crips?....
I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and assume that these are simply left over Halloween decorations - although it isn't really all that much of a break, considering Halloween was almost 5 months ago now.
People think my biggest safety issues are the dangerous dogs or wildlife I have to deal with. I don't sweat that nearly as much as I do the people. It makes you a might nervous to stand on a porch and knock on a door wearing a badge when someone whose been cooking up meth in their bathtub might be on the other side of the door.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I like this pic of her with her Mother and Father.
I'm going to assume that Her Majesty the Queen is a clandestine follower of The Reluctant Paladin, and wish her many, many happy returns.
- Check out his left hand... What's up with that?
- Does it have any thing to do with his "Specialness"?...
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
That's a cropped out portion of an "Oddities of Science" cartoon from the February, 1934, edition of Modern Mechanix Magazine.
The picture features a forlorn looking $20 Gold Piece. He looks really sad, poor little guy, with his patched clothes and hat-in-hand. Next to him stands the crisp, paper $20 bill with sharp top hat and cane. By contrast, the double sawbuck looks positively debonaire, with his monacle, spats, and smoldering cigar.
The text beneath the image touts that a $20 paper bill is worth MORE than a $20 Gold Piece - since the Federal Reserve had recently declared that the $20 Gold Piece would only be worth the value of the actual gold it contained - as determined by the Fed - Not necessarily the face value as marked.
This was congruent with then President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order (and subsequently the Gold Reserve Act of 1934) requiring private citizens to "exchange" their privately held Gold Coins and/or bullion for paper money at the Federal Reserve, at the newly set exchange rate. Private Citizens, with a few exceptions, could only legally hold a maximum of $100 face value in gold coins. This prohibition remained in effect until Gerald Ford signed a bill making private ownership of gold coins legal again in the mid 1970's.
At that point though - precious metals were a thing of the past as far as minted currency in the United States. We were stuck with the clad junk, and our printed/minted currency no longer had backing in actual gold and/or silver reserves.
I guess that we really should pity the poor old Gold Double Eagle. Currency that's actually worth something isn't very progressive at all, is it? Why ever would someone want to lug tired, heavy old gold coins around when they could have the glib, more "valuable", paper money instead?
Why should we limit ourselves to just printing money that's supported by actual gold or silver? After all, we have all this ink and paper just laying around...
The $20 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, minted from 1907-1933 contains .96750 troy oz. Pure Gold. In addition to being a beautiful work of art, its also worth a shitload of greenbacks. Gold has been trading recently at well over $1100 per troy ounce.
I can't take my Wife out for a movie and popcorn for a $20 bill any more, even if we hit the matinee.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Former First Lady Laura Bush.
President and Mrs Bush live nearby, and I've occasionally thought about what it would be like to "run into them" since they've moved to Dallas. I didn't approach her, and I tried not to stare like an idiot. I didn't even sneak a picture - although I really wanted to. I think that would have been rude and it would have made me feel intrusive and sleezy to do it. I thought about walking over and saying hello and whatever... but didn't want to bother her (or be wrestled to the ground by Secret Service, for that matter). If George W. had been with her I think I wouldn't have been able to resist walking up and offering my hand.
W. did some stuff I didn't agree with from time to time as President, but over all I admired him greatly and still do.
I sure miss him in the office now....
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I made up my mind a while back to pick up some silver. Lots of reasons to do it. Hedge against inflation, prudent investment, potential hard currency during rough patches - long or short. Also, there's the visceral feeling you get sometimes when you handle ACTUAL money, instead of the increasingly worthless clad crap that is the current coin of the realm.... If you ever held silver or gold coins in your hand, you know what I'm talking about. Its an entirely different feeling from the coins in circulation today.
The main reason that spurred me to start buying silver, though, was remembering seeing Gold prices at $300+ an ounce when I was a young man and thinking - "HOLY CRAP! Who can afford to invest in Gold? If you buy at that price you'll loose your shirt when it comes crashing back down! No way I'm scraping up that kind of cash just to buy an ounce of something."
Yeah... I never claimed to be a particularly smart Kid.
Now of course I'm wishing that I had. Over the past year or so I've found myself watching the price of silver creep up. As with any investment, maybe it will go WAY UP... or maybe it will fall. Who knows?
At any rate I made a decision to purchase a set amount of silver on a regular basis as a long term investment. Buy it and forget it sort of arrangement, you know? Nothing huge in lump sum amounts - Just a regular small investment that isn't painful for me or my budget.
I looked over the various options for obtaining silver and decided to go the "junk silver" coin route via Ebay. Mercury Dimes, Franklin Half Dollars, that sort of thing. It seems to me that I end up paying a smaller premium over all buying my silver this way - compared to buying bullion coins through an online source. It's kind of fun, too, cruising around ebay looking for good deals. ;) Its funny, though, to watch some auctions where the bidders get so caught up in it that they go WAY over the current price for silver. And this is on auctions where there's no numismatic value over the silver price. It can get crazy. I get outbid a LOT more often than I'm successful, but that's OK.
The way I see it, if I win more auctions than I loose I'm not doing it right.
Usually I'm able to obtain my goal amount without paying much of a "premium" at all. I look for auctions where I can get fairly close to the current price for silver, including whatever the shipping cost is for the lot I'm bidding on. So far I've been able to hit pretty close. You'll usually pay a premium of some amount, even if its just whatever it costs to ship, unless you're either really lucky or you are doing a face to face transaction with someone - but I don't see the point in paying more "extra" than I have to.
I was curious if any of you invest in silver? If you do, what's your favored method of getting the stuff? I know some folks really like buying the full troy ounce rounds or bars from places like APMEX or KITCO... Do you see any real benefit from doing so compared to buying old circulated silver coins like I do? Any tips or ideas to share?
I'm as interested in the "why" of your chosen method as I am in the actual method you've chosen.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The design is from the 1940's - though this particular model saw use well into the late 1950's and early 60's. I like the design aspects of the old girl... Something about the porthole design and heavy look and feel of it makes me think of submarines and Captain Nemo. Very industrial/steampunk, in my opinion.
When I opened her up, this is what greeted me:
Those are two obsolete and leaking 1.5 volt batteries jammed in there. Incidentally, that block of wood in the middle is actually how it came from the factory. How many times these days do you think you'll find a block of wood inside your flashlight?
The ruptured batteries had done a good bit of damage through acid corrosion and rust of the metal. It even rusted through the metal completely in 4 small places (about dime sized holes). I initially thought they no longer made batteries this size, but I was mistaken. You can still special order them for about $25 each!!
I had to pretty much destroy them to get them out, since they had both swollen inside the lantern a good deal and were attached by the rust and corrosion. Here's a shot of the switch mechanism inside:
A small lever on the front of the lantern above the lens manually actuates a regular toggle switch inside the lantern - high tech, Huh? :) The rust and corrosion had done a number on the toggle switch also, so it had to go. Luckily replacements are easy to find at the hardware store.
To fix the rusty holes in the battery compartment I wire wheeled and sanded all the loose rust scale off. I shot a little Rust Encapsulator primer on inside and out - to make sure the rust didn't continue to eat away at the metal in the future. Then I just taped over the holes on the outside with painters tape and spread on some Bondo (auto body filler) on the inside. This patched the holes pretty well flush with the outside surface of the lantern metal once the bondo cured and the tape was removed. The inside bondo was "globby", but it doesn't matter 'cuz it isn't seen. I skim coated the patches with a bit more bondo on the outside, and sanded it down. I wasn't too concerned with getting a perfect smooth surface, since there's some pitting over all in other places. My goal wasn't to make the lantern look like it just came off the store shelf. I want it to have some character.
Once the patches were done, I painted a couple of coats of gloss black all over.
Next I had to decide what I was going to do about functionality. Sometimes I don't care if an old gadget that I'm working on actually "works" after I'm done. This time I did, though. Here's what the light fixture inside the lantern looked like:
That's a view of the back. here's a view of the front:
The bulb in the middle inserts into a small sized automotive style bayonet fixture. Its one of the push/twist type that you find in dome lights, turn signals, etc. The original bulb was a 3 volt bulb - which was burned out. I went to Autozone and found a mini-bulb that would fit the fixture. This is the old bulb on the left with the new 13v bulb on the right:
It was important to find a bulb with the same two terminals on the end, instead of the more common single terminal that you find now:
Now that I had a new bulb, I needed a power source. I built a battery pack out of two 9v batteries by connecting them with a 9v battery connector:
I wired the ends of the connector leads together and tapped the ends down when I secured the two batteries together. You can get battery connectors of all sorts from Radio Shack. These came 5 in a pack for a couple of bucks.
I used two more connectors, one for each open terminal (positive and negative). I snipped off the unused connector lead on each one. I could have just soldered on some wires to the terminals, but then when it came time to replace the battery I would have to drag out the solder iron and resolder a new battery pack to the wires. I think this will be easier in the long run.
Here's how it looked with the battery pack wired to the fixture, with a new toggle switch in place. I didn't have any heatshrink tubing, so I just covered the wired joints with electrical tape. It will all be inside the battery compartment and not exposed to any movement/stress so I don't have to worry about shorts that much.
Here's what it looks like turned on:
When I installed the light, I taped the battery pack and wires to secure them inside the compartment so they wouldn't rattle around. I also decided to replace the original steel screws with brass ones, and even added brass wingnuts to the top screws. I think it adds a nice contrast between the brass and the gloss black:
And this is lit:
It puts off a good deal of light. More than I thought it would. Its almost on par with a standard maglight. Its just hard for me to capture light like this in a picture.
Friday, April 16, 2010
When I was browsing back over the old posts for Girl Friday, I suddenly realized that I had completely overlooked one of my personal favorites. I mentioned her briefly, in another post, but she certainly deserves her own spotlight for Girl Friday.
So, without further ado, here's the woman who sparked my initial interest in Edwardian Beauties:
Lily Elsie was born, and lived most of her life in, England. She was wildly popular as a stage actress, appearing in comedies and musicals - due to her strong voice.
Oddly enough, Lily Elsie was painfully shy by most accounts. She was almost passed over for her breakthrough performance in The Merry Widow - because of her reluctance to play the lead role.
It was her appearance in The Merry Widow that is thought to be the impetus for the rise in popularity of the huge, feather laden hats with which Edwardian Women are so firmly attached in peoples minds. It set off a fashion trend that was unheard of at the time.
Lily Elsie did not have a long career. Her shyness made her more comfortable out of the limelight. She married a rich Army Officer, and spent most of her time pursuing her love of Fox Hunting. By many accounts, it was not a happy marriage and the two split in the 1930's. She passed away in 1962.
A quote of her's that I very much like:
The only way to succeed is to peg away. Work as hard as possible, and never appear to find things a trouble. (Lily Elsie.)