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Archive for June, 2009

Psalm 15

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Read it and Then Do It

I spent part of the day doing what I felt to be spiritual battle. I have found that some things I’ve done, while moral and legal and ethical by ordinary standards, seem to be lacking by Christian standards. I felt a sudden and powerful compulsion to get on top of one of these things today.

The Bible says we perish for lack of knowledge. I think that is true (“Good IDEA, O Lord!”). We accept salvation, and then many of us let it go at that. Meanwhile, the enemy is not so lazy. He takes advantage of our ignorance and leads us into behavior that seems okay, but actually leads to defeat and stress and loss of power over our lives. For example, maybe you think it’s a good idea to stand up to your parents and fight with them when you disagree with them. Or maybe you’re a wife who thinks it’s okay to improve your husband by lecturing him and refusing to let him lead. When you do things that are against God’s way, you are planting landmines in your future. Going to heaven and living in power are two different things. If you want things to work out while you’re here, you have to learn how to think and behave.

This is what I have come to believe. The Bible makes much more sense when you realize that sins forgiven in heaven can still cause you a terrible problems on earth. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect, but it’s supposed to be good. And you have to mature in order to know what “good” means. Paul was flogged and stoned, but he was also thrilled with what God did with him. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson had fame, extreme wealth, and adoration, but he was so miserable he practically lived on antidepressants and sleep medications.

The Bible says the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. If that is true, then once in a while, if you’ve ever done anything wrong, you should expect your mind to vomit up a landmine you need to clear. You should expect God to show things about yourself that you need to fix, in order to stay close to him and be protected and taken care of. As any parent can tell you, correction is a big part of guidance.

Today has been a great day, but it has not been a fun day. I’m going to go relax. I feel so much better now. I’m getting the garbage out of my life.

Before I close, let me add something I just received in a comment:

This was mailed to me by our church administrative assistant. It was written by Natalie, a former church member. I figured she wouldn’t mind if I passed it along:

My two year old niece, Morgan Thomas, is in the Seattle children’s hospital. She had a sore ankle, a fever, and was vomiting. My sister took her into the emergency room yesterday where they spent all evening just to find out they needed to take her to the children’s hospital. The doctors performed several tests and found out that she had a staff infection that settled in her joints. Early this morning they could not stabilize her blood pressure or her fever and they moved her into ICU. I spoke with my mom and she said that they won’t have the culture results back for two days but the doctor started Morgan on antibiotics hoping that this is the right medicine. My brother in law just accepted the Lord last week and my family believes it is a spiritual attack on my sister’s family. The other large problem was their insurance is not going into effect until tomorrow. There are several serious things that need prayer right now…

The first one being Morgan’s life. This is a life or death matter and we want prayer for the doctor’s wisdom in which medicines to use. Please pray that God will reign and that the enemy will not prevail in this situation. It has taken years of praying and interceding for my brother-in-law and now that he is a christian, his family is being spiritually attacked in many ways. Please pray for peace and strength for my family as well as the healing of Morgan. I would also like prayer that the financial situation will get worked out and that the insurance company may be willing to work with my family.

If doing evil plants bombs in your path, then doing good plants a crop of good things you will harvest later. If that is the case, Brad’s comment is a present to everyone who reads it.

Your Head is Important

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

If it Was Gone, You Would Miss It

I have been trying to save money by rehabilitating my old motorcycle helmet, and it has been a struggle.

I left it in the garage, and mildew got into the lining. To get it out, I applied dishwashing liquid, iodophor solution, Febreze, and bleach (twice). Finally, the smell went away. But so did some of the glue that held the helmet together. There’s a strip of vinyl that covers the edge of the helmet so it doesn’t rub the wearer’s neck, and it flat fell out. There’s a scoop on the back of the helmet, for funneling air in, and it fell off, too. A couple of other parts also went AWOL.

It’s really annoying. This is an Arai Quantum helmet, and before I bought it, I read that the lining could be removed for washing. And that is true, if by “removed,” you mean “torn out and completely destroyed.” It’s glued in place. So once the helmet starts to stink, you have a real job on your hands. If you were to buy this helmet now, you could expect to spend $350 or more. It’s not a cheapo. You would think this kind of money would buy better quality.

It also has a horrible mechanism for removing the visor. People who have mastered it say it’s simple. The rest of us break things when we try it. And Arai’s parts site doesn’t work. I broke one of the parts; I hope it isn’t important.

I finally found something that will bond the old parts to the helmet. Rubber cement. So I think it will hold up for a few more months. But in case it doesn’t, I’m researching new ones.

If you’re a rider, you may find this useful. It looks like Shark and OGK make better helmets than Arai, and you can get them cheaper if you look around.

There is a lot of controversy about the best way to make a helmet. Different organizations put out different standards. Examples are the Snell and DOT standards. Based on empirical testing, many people now think the Snell standard causes injuries, because the helmets are so stiff, they shoot g-forces directly to the head instead of absorbing them. That sounds reasonable to me. The Snell people are really in a snit about it, though.

I would not buy another Arai helmet. Mine has been falling apart for years. The scoop on the top is held on by tiny strips of two-sided tape. I’m not kidding. And you can imagine how likely you are to find it when it comes off in the rain. Yesterday I glued my scoop back on permanently. I can’t imagine why Arai didn’t do this the first time around. Maybe they have some concern about the glue weakening the helmet. I tend to doubt that this is a real possibility. Losing the scoop, on the other hand, is nearly a certainty.

I may get a Shark RSX. I can get a discontinued model for a little over $200. It has a removable liner, a safety standard I like better, a thicker visor, better comfort, and…other stuff. It’s made in France, but I can get over that with time and therapy. They made a couple of designs incorporating the stars and stripes, and they also have a plain silver helmet which is not offensive.

Ebay has a few used “like new” helmets. Here’s what my MSF instructor told us: do not buy used. If you drop your helmet, buy a new one. Helmets can sustain damage you can’t see. Then when you need them, they fail. I don’t know if it’s true, but I prefer not to find out.

Oddly, the MSF supplied my class with used helmets which had almost certainly been dropped at least once.

I guess we signed waivers.

Interesting factoid: cheap helmets are as safe as expensive ones. The differences are in features and comfort. I have a spare helmet I bought a long time ago because I knew a girl who kept asking for a ride, and I spent $60. Is it a good helmet, apart from safety? No idea. My head won’t fit in it. You can spend $60 and get a safe helmet, or you can spend $400 and get a safe helmet that looks good and isn’t torture to wear.

You should wear a full-face helmet, because impact on your lower jaw can be transferred to the base of your skull, and that will do bad things to your spine. Like severing it.

Won’t do your jaw a whole lot of good, either.

I got the mildew out of my saddlebags and helmet. The gloves, I wrote off. Green isn’t my color anyway.

More useful info a surprising number of people don’t know: you should wear ear plugs when you ride. Because of exhaust noise, right? Wrong. Plugs will still be needed even after the silent fuel-cell motorcycle is perfected. The noise is from the wind. It’s subtle, but still dangerous.

France. I really need to come to grips with that.

News From Texas

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Cancer Progresses

More news RE Dan Howell’s sister Mary Ellen. A while back, her family was requesting prayer. She has advanced cancer. This is a real person, not an Internet fiction. Here’s a new message from Dan; it was relayed to me this morning:

Mel had a rough day today, Pray that God will give her a restful sleep. I will be leaving to go home on Wed, it will be hard to leave my sister. I know that her work here is done, and I am so Blessed to see the fruit that she is bearing. Thanks to all who have lifted my sister up for the 3 years.

Mel had asked to see the new home that she and Mike just bought last week. The new paint and the way that it is arranged..So if the Good Lord will see fit, in the morning, Hospice House has arranged transportation to the house. Lets just Pray that she will be up to the trip. It will be rough on Mike, so please hold him high in your Prayers.. the reality is finally setting in with him. The Dreams that they shared are slowly dying out and he has come to finally realize that. He is hurting bad now. All I can do is hold him and cry with him. I just wish that more of you could have met Mike.. AWESOME is all that I can say.

His frame of mind is mature and exemplary and right. Still, I’ll keep praying for a miracle. I don’t pray for people to go easily. I pray for healing, and that if anything in their or their family’s history has caused the problem, they will be made aware of it and helped to repent and have the condition undone. I remember the story of David, when his son was ill. He prayed for healing, and he fasted and repented and asked for mercy, until the boy died.

I’m all for praying for people’s suffering to be eased, but that’s not really the same thing as giving up and asking for a pleasant passing. Your suffering can be eased, regardless of whether you get a healing.

People don’t always get their threescore and ten, even with prayer. But I see no harm in praying for healing as long as there is hope. I have experienced miraculous healings of minor problems (I’ve never had a major problem), and I know I’m not the only one God cares enough about to help.

Googling around, I see the courts are getting steamed up about “faith healing.” I wish people would quit using that phrase. It sounds like “snake oil” or “time shares” or “pyramid clubs” or any number of other shady phenomena. The issue seems to be whether parents have the right to deprive their kids of medical care while relying on prayer.

I don’t think this conflict should exist. If the courts say your kid should have treatment, and that treatment is not somehow inherently sinful, why not give in? You can pray in a hospital. Besides, medicine often works. You can pray for food while driving around looking for an open drive-thru, can’t you? Maybe by avoiding provoking the courts, you are giving unto Caesar. Nothing wrong with that.

I can understand resisting if a doctor wants to cure your child using parts from an aborted baby. And you shouldn’t buy a kidney taken from a prisoner or a slumdweller in India. You should not let an unhealthy attachment to earthly life–which is fleeting, anyway–drive you to harm others in order to stick around a little longer. Presumably, if you’re a believer, you expect the hereafter to be an improvement, and it’s where you expect to spend the bulk of your existence. You shouldn’t cling to this life as though it were the most important thing in the world. It’s not. But I don’t think things like antibiotics, surgery, and chemotherapy are evil.

Twice in my life, I have been convinced I was going to die. Well, three times, if you count a strange experience I had, which probably fit the description of an anxiety attach. Twice I dreamed I had driven off an elevated roadway, and I looked through the windshield at the ground coming up at me, and I was positive it was over. There was no way out.

It wasn’t terrifying. I wasn’t exactly pleased, but I didn’t lose my composure. I had a very solemn feeling, realizing this was a very serious moment. One phase of my life was over–there was no point in continuing to think about the concerns of that phase–and I was about to start the next. I was curious, and I was nervous, because I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Part of me was relieved that I was about to leave a somewhat putrid world behind and enter a world where everything was right. I looked forward to seeing the change. I was not so alarmed that I would have harmed someone else or done something evil in order to be spared. I knew that what was happening to me was normal and good.

I hope that when my time comes, I react the same way I did in the dream. I hope I’m mature enough to accept death as part of life. I hope I am true to my belief that it’s a birth into a different and better world. I don’t want to go screaming and begging, like an addict who won’t go to rehab. If you’re a Christian, you have to believe that you can’t grow unless you die. This life is like a diaper; you mess it up, and then you mature, and you go on without it. It’s like a beater car you buy a teenager, so he’ll know what he’s doing by the time he gets something better. You can’t hang onto it in an irrational unwillingness to grow up. That’s what death is, for a Christian. Growing up. The earth is a playpen. The real world lies in front of us. Why would you want to stay here too long? I want a few more years, but I don’t want to be a hundred and fifty years old, hooked up to tubes, full of implants and transplants, barely aware of what’s going on. Not when I could be healthy and well and active in God’s presence. Insisting on remaining here would be like being a 50-year-old high school student.

One of the sad things about having no faith is that you are likely to think this short, corrupted, pain-filled life is all there is. You might consider yourself entitled to do absolutely anything in order to stay here. That’s a dangerous mindset. Soon, in societies where God is considered a fantasy, we’re going to see doomed babies conceived solely for the purpose of providing parts. I’m sure there are places where you can buy parts taken from the living, under circumstances amounting to coercion. We already think it’s okay to kill an unborn baby simply because raising it is an inconvenience, so the devaluation will continue, and the rationalizations will probably gain the force of law. People in such societies will be like the Canaanites, who killed their firstborn sons, pickled them in jars, and put them in the walls of their houses to insure good fortune.

You’re going to cross over some day. It won’t be long before it happens. Whether you’re two or ninety, it will be sooner than you think. Your body is deteriorating all the time. It never stops, and it gets faster as you age. Sooner or later, this life will cease to be rewarding. You should try to determine what comes after, and you should limit the things you are willing to do to postpone the inevitable. That’s what I think.

I admire Dan’s attitude. He is having a very painful experience, yet he will not abandon God or accuse God of doing his sister wrong. It’s easy to talk about the way you should act in a crisis. He’s teaching by walking the walk, which is much harder. In the past, I’ve had the temerity to be angry with God, and it was never over something this serious. I was an idiot and an ingrate. I am grateful for Dan’s example.

As for me, I find myself in the enviable yet not always pleasant state of one who suffers as the result of answered prayer. I’ve been asking to be made aware of the things I do wrong, and the things my family has done wrong before me, and over the last few days, I’ve had some surprising revelations. I’m amazed to realize how badly I’ve acted while trying to do what was right. I asked for this, and I am thankful for it, but I can’t say I enjoy it.

I believe you have to let God clean you up in order to experience his protection, blessings, and guidance. The Bible makes that clear. And I want a better life. I want less anxiety and guilt, and I want protection from evil, and I want guidance and success. I want some good deeds in my account when I leave this life. But the cleansing can be a little like the scene in Rambo, where they bathed Sylvester Stallone with a fire hose.

Hopefully the sensation tapers off after a while.

Burn Notice

Monday, June 29th, 2009

No More Coasters

My most exciting achievement today was installing a new DVD burner. My old one just refused to work. Changing media made no difference. Wouldn’t burn DVDs or CDs. I was tired of throwing out one disk after another, while I tried different things. So now the new one is burning a copy of a milling DVD.

The old machine was IDE, and this one is SATA. Seems much faster. The other one stopped and started, and it seemed to take a while for the PC and the burner to shake hands and get acquainted before burning a disk. And it looks like the burning itself was slower. The new disk just popped out, and the elapsed time was only 4:39.

I’m wondering if bird dust killed the old drive. Marv and Maynard emit dust 24/7. It’s like talc, only it seems finer. Goes everywhere. I don’t think it would do the optics in a burner much good.

The new one was cheap. About $36, delivered. OEM job. I stuck it in there and turned it on, and that was that.

I guess it’s sad when something this trivial makes you feel so good, but that old burner made me crazy, and I had to keep my laptop on the dining table to burn DVDs.

I don’t need a great burner, because I don’t steal movies or music. I record things so I can watch them once and then discard them. I suppose it’s infringement, but it’s a pretty lame type of infringement.

I’m mad with power. I think I’ll burn another one.

Another Home Run

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Plus Impending Mike Visit

I guess I say this every week, but church was fantastic today.

For the last four weeks, the subject was Philippians 4:8, which says we should try to think about things that are Pure, Praiseworthy, Lovely, Admirable, Noble, True, Excellent, and Right (my mnemonic again: PPLANTER). I’ve been keeping it in mind, but it wasn’t all that easy to apply.Try it. Think about something good for a minute. A couple of minutes later, you may be thinking about something horrendous.

Today, we got a clearer idea how to put it to work. Pastor Wilkerson listed three things that oppose the Philippians 4:8 attitude: contrariness, covetousness, and cynicism.

I’m sure glad no one has ever seen those things on THIS blog.

Shut up.

I guess I don’t have to explain contrariness. It means you have to be a pain in the butt all the time, instead of going with the flow. Here’s a clue that you are contrary. People call you “a pill.”

Obviously, you shouldn’t go along with people when you have a good reason to object, but that’s not what he was talking about. Some people have to be an obstacle all the time, just to look smart or feel important. I have heard wild rumors that sometimes people who post blog comments act this way. I have heard–don’t quote me on this–that if you Google some commenter’s names, you will find an endless number of argumentative and smug yet worthless and fundamentally wrong comments on other people’s blogs.

That’s probably just an Internet legend. No one would really do that. I certainly couldn’t name five such people off the top of my head. No, I could not do that. Don’t even ask.

Covetousness means you’re never happy with what you have. But you’re pretty sure you’d be happy with what other people have. I suppose it makes sense to say it contradicts the spirit of Philippians 4:8, because you can’t be thinking positively about the things God has put in your life, if you’re sure they stink compared to the things he gave your neighbor.

Cynicism–I am so glad I’ve never been guilty of this one–means you are suspicious of other people and have a negative attitude.

The notes we were given say, “He is a champion of innuendos, double meanings, and put-downs.” I may know someone that description fits. But it also says a cynic turns people against a person who tries to “think best.” That’s not me.

I know I’ve gone overboard a lot. On the other hand, I don’t consider myself a true cynic. A true cynic is a kind of bigot. You never get a fair shot from someone like that. I’ve been critical of people I thought were con artists and bloviators, but I don’t question the existence of good people. I don’t automatically assume people are lying when they claim good motives (unless they’re emailing me from Nigeria). But I could do better.

The message I took away from this is that I should quit being negative just for the joy of it. And I should work harder to see the good in people and things. I was working on that already, although it may be far from obvious.

On the way home, I heard some guy on the radio talking about our duty to submit to government. I thought that was interesting. I see two main goals in Christianity. First, you want to get eternal life, and that’s easy, because it’s a matter of asking and believing. Second, you want to live in the kingdom of God here on earth. Not so easy. You have to behave and pray and worship and study, etcetera. It’s like being an Orthodox Jew, only with better food.

This guy pointed out that you can’t be lawless and live in the kingdom of God. You have to submit to government. Here’s a depressing extrapolation that occurred to me: we should probably pay tax on Internet sales.

I realize the states themselves are responsible for the Internet tax problem. They choose not to provide a convenient method of paying, and enforcement is nonexistent, and in actuality, they are complicit in the whole business. Legislators routinely shout down efforts to reform the system, because they know everyone will hate it. You could make a very good argument that we are not obligated to care more about this than the states are. It’s like illegal immigration. The law says “do this,” and our lawmakers say “but we won’t help, and if you don’t do it, we won’t do anything.”

Still, the better choice is to look up the silly forms and pay. At least on big items. Arrgh. I would rather have God’s power flowing in my life than save 6%. I want my prayers answered. I don’t want to bring shame on the church. I want growth. I guess I can cough up 6% in order to keep from screwing that up.

My attitude about taxes is as follows. I have never hated paying taxes. What I have hated is saving receipts and filling out forms. I complain about high taxes all the time, because they wreak havoc on the economy and punish productivity and make for creeping totalitarianism. But I don’t get upset when I have to pay. Maybe I should, but I’m always so happy to know what I owe, I hardly care what the number is. I just want to get the check written and kiss the IRS goodbye for another year.

Next week the church is having a July 4 barbecue thing after church lets out. “Coincidentally,” Mike may be in town. I let him know. We started talking about how we needed to take some food. Mike came up with an argument proving it was our Christian duty to humiliate everyone else with our ribs, in order to keep them from having unrealistically high opinions of themselves. I guess there may be some flaws in his theory, but I think ribs would be a good idea. Not sure how many racks I can get in the Hoginator. I talked to one of the pastors today, and he confirmed that they were soliciting food. I might make four or five batches of brownies, since they can be made several days in advance. Cheesecake would be too decadent, and besides, people would get in fights over it.

I’d like to take some food, because I haven’t gotten involved with the church, beyond showing up. I feel like I keep taking without giving anything. Of course, I provide a little financial support, but there is more to supporting a church than writing an occasional check.

Is it okay to smoke ribs over a pan of beer and then take them to church? We may find out.

I hope Mike makes it down here. My diet is going well, so I think I can survive a visit.

Beautiful Knob Becomes a Museum Piece

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Pushed Aside by Mere PVC

I did not get to use the toilet knob I machined yesterday. Very sad. My dad’s boat guy had claimed the heads were so old it was dangerous to take the old valves off, but while I worked on one of them today, I decided to see what the story was, and the old valve screwed right out. Good, because it meant I could install a new valve. Bad, because the new aluminum knob was no longer needed.

And I just put a set screw in it! This is the first tapping I’ve ever done. I was all excited about fastening the knob onto the old stem, using my home-tapped set screw.

The toilets on the boat will be greatly improved by the new PVC valves I’m installing. Only a guy who installs toilets for a living would choose to put a frequently handled valve at the base of the bowl. Plumbing is a fine and honorable trade, but plumbers tend to be unbelievably dirty. A plumber will eat a sandwich with one hand while fixing your toilet with the other. Since I’m redoing it all, I can put the new valves above the bowl. Not optimal, but considerably less exposed to…whatever.

We got the generator running, with the aid of the guy who installed it. This is the boat’s third generator. You can’t kill Detroit Diesel boat engines, but the little motors that run generators have all sorts of problems that stop them in a hurry. The first Onan we had was balky when starting, and if it didn’t feel like cranking up right away, it was easy to burn up the starter. It also had a very expensive circuit board which could (and did) quit working for no reason at all. The second Onan was no better. Now we have a Westerbeke. Supposedly it’s much simpler, and it has no silly circuit board to blow up. Mating internal combustion engines with complicated electronics has caused a world of expensive problems ordinary people can’t correct, and I don’t think any of the problems it has solved could not be fixed by simple maintenance and common sense. As I understand it, a lot of the improvements in car longevity are due to improved metallurgy and lubricants; I doubt integrated chips helped a lot. Think of all the old slant sixes that ran for eons.

This generator has three fuel filters that I have become aware of so far. First, the Racor. This is a big aftermarket filter which is really more part of the boat than the generator. Then the spool-sized filter on the way into the motor. Then an inline filter farther downstream. I accidentally shut off a fuel valve, starving the engine until it quit, and I assumed getting fuel back into it would fix the problem. I also changed the spool-sized filter, simply because my dad wanted it done. We still couldn’t get the generator to stay on. The generator guy showed us the third filter, which–coincidentally–happened to be plugged up the same week I shut off the fuel by accident.

This is how boats are. You find a problem. You find the obvious cause. You fix the obvious cause. Then it turns out another cause has popped up at the same time, defying odds in a manner that would shame Susan Boyle.

I had to put off church until tomorrow. I didn’t want to leave my dad holding the bag. I’m trying to get this family running right, the same way I’d try to get a generator going, and I believe you have to treat your parents correctly in order to get the blessings going in your life. As the eldest (only) son, I think I have a special responsibility. I am supposed to be second in authority, now that my mother is gone. Feminism isn’t Biblical; neither is the idea that all siblings are the same. I don’t buy that modern nonsense. I think the eldest son still has added privileges and duties, so I am trying to do what I think is right. Running off to church with the generator problem still plaguing my father would be the wrong move. Sometimes you can offend God by trying to fulfill your obligations to him in the wrong way.

I’ve been told that this is the true meaning of the story of the Good Samaritan. I think Perry Stone said that. The two men who passed by on the other side and refrained to help were religious Jews, and they were headed toward Jerusalem. That suggests they were ritually pure and therefore afraid to touch someone who might be dead. They could become unclean and lose the right to participate in whatever was going on at the temple. The Samaritan was motivated by compassion, not his religious routine, and that was a good thing, because believers were expected to know that in an emergency, God valued compassion more than empty observance.

I wish that when I was young, I had understood more about the way people were intended to live. I’m glad some of it is becoming clear to me. It’s sad that I have no one to pass it on to, but if I had had kids at the usual time of life, I suppose I would have had little of value to impart to them.

We had a bad drought for the first few months of this year, but it started raining a month or so ago, and everything greened up fast. Looking around now, you would see no evidence of the problems we were having a while back. I hope life can be like that. I know it can. God can change things so fast, and so unexpectedly; I keep my eyes open all the time. Most of the good changes that happen to me are gradual, but I wouldn’t mind a few quick ones, given my age.

I Lied

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Machining has Occurred

Here it is! I made a knob for the toilet on my dad’s boat!

Feast your eyes on that. It took me three hours. I started with a 2″ aluminum cylinder, and I ended up with a knob that is probably 1 7/8″ in diameter, and I drilled a hole down the middle using my tailstock.

The finish is really nice. I’m surprised. I did it with the HSS tool I made, and it came out fine.

Let’s see. I used that tool to rough it out. I created the basic shape of the stem and the slope on the stem side of the disk. Then I used the compound slide to clean up that side. I cleaned up the circumference of the disk and faced the end. Then I used the compound slide to make a slope on the face, parallel to the slope on the stem side. I used a carbide tool to clean up the stem, and then I polished the stem with the HSS tool. I used a file to break the hard edges. After that, I put a big drill bit in my Albrecht chuck, stuck it in the tailstock, and made a hole for the shaft.

I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I relied on a round-nose tool, which is like the Wonkavator of lathe tools. It sort of does everything.

I made the knob long so it would be easier to reach. I still haven’t made a setscrew hole. I guess I’ll have to do that with a hand drill.

It’s driving me crazy. It’s beautiful, but it’s already picking up scratches and dings. I’ll feel better when it’s on the toilet.

I’d like to turn it into a cross, so it would be easier to grip. No mill, though. It would be very hard to do on a lathe. I guess I could have knurled it. Maybe I still can. I don’t want to mar it up in a chuck, but I could put it on a bolt and chuck the bolt.

I can tell I’m going to love machining. I can’t believe I made this thing. There are a few tool hurdles most men never clear. Welding is one. Routing is another. Machining is pretty much the final frontier. If you can do these things, you can do just about whatever you need to do. You can find weirder things to do, like casting and forging, but unless you’re a pathological nerd you’ll never need that stuff.

Drilling with the lathe is wonderful. The control is amazing. Don’t waste a second wondering how to keep the bit where you want it. It has no choice. It’s too bad you can only drill into the center of the work, unless you want to spend a year playing with clamps and a backplate to get the hole where you want it.

Man, I wish the mill was here. The DRO would make finishing this so simple.

Head Honcho

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Toilets Don’t Scare Me

I didn’t get to do any machining today. Figures. I got called to the boat to do a sea trial, and then I got MOST of the old handle off the valve on the head, and then my dad and I ran errands for boat parts. Now it’s nearly 5:00 p.m.

I got a new gate valve, figuring I might be able to take the heavy cast handle off of it and put it on the old shaft. The original valve had a stamped handle, which may be one reason it didn’t last. The debris that used to be a handle appears to be similar to brass, not steel, so I’m not sure why it rotted away. The valve itself is brass, and it’s still there.

The new valve I got is from Indonesia. The old valve had a stamped handle held on by a stainless screw that fit in the end of the shaft. The new one has the cast handle and a (possibly) stainless nut. The handle has a square hole in it, and the shaft is ground off so it has four flats on it, and the manufacturer just jammed it down onto the shaft. I think it’s tapered. I got it off easily using a vise and a hammer. I rested the handle on the vise, with the valve dangling between the jaws, and I hit the end of the shaft, driving it down through the hole in the handle.

I would rather make a cool handle that won’t rot, but this will be a good Plan B. I’d have to get a new stainless screw to put it on the old shaft. The old screw was cheap and soft, so it’s somewhat mangled.

I was thinking life would be much easier if I could just undo the pressure nut holding the old shaft in, remove the guts of the old valve, and insert the guts of the new valve. But I have no idea how to get the old shaft out once the coupling is off. Something holds it in place. I need to find a diagram somewhere.

I am Googling around, and now I’m wondering…was the guy who installed the toilet smart enough to know that a gate valve isn’t the right thing for throttling flow? This is something I learned from a sprinkler guy. A gate valve has a wedge-shaped thing in the path of the water. Turning the handle drives a screw that pushes the wedge into place, and I guess it mates against the brass of the housing, shutting off the flow. If you don’t open it all the way, bad things happen. The sprinkler guy said water flows over and erodes the wedge. Wikipedia says something about vibration eating it. Anyway, what you really want in a situation like this is a globe valve, and for all I know, that’s what’s on the toilet now.

Maybe the smartest course of action is to try to get the valve out of there, completely, and replace it with a PVC globe valve. Home Depot probably sells them. PVC would last a thousand years on that toilet.

It would ruin my fun, but it would work.

I also had an idea about rigging up a flex shaft to put the valve handle up at waist level, so people (mainly me) wouldn’t have to reach under the toilet to operate it. A PVC valve would probably be hard to connect to a flex shaft, and it would probably take a lot of torque to open and close it, and that would eventually ruin the shaft.

I like these venturi toilets much better than the old Galley Maids they replaced, but they are as temperamental as a doctor’s third wife.

Had a good day, even without machining.

Alert the Media: Tools May Actually be Used Today

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Contain Your Amazement

I suppose everyone is writing about Michael Jackson today. Not me. All I can say is, I hope we were all wrong about him. I think he was a very sad figure. The world gave him everything he wanted–instead of what he needed–and it destroyed him. Something for me to think about if I ever feel life has cheated me. The only thing worse than suffering adversity is failing to profit from it. If you profit from it, to a certain extent, it ceases to be adversity. If you just sit around feeling cheated, you allow yourself to be defeated twice.

That’s actually worth remembering. Someone smarter than me must have whispered it in my ear while I was praying for more tools or something.

People love to say “God told me this” and “God told me that.” Me, I am rarely confident enough to make that statement. I could attribute something stupid or wrong to God; I would not be the first. On the other hand, I could end up taking credit for something he told me. What do you do? Search me. I suppose the best course is to consider what Gamaliel said. If a thing is from God, it should become obvious eventually.

I have the garage air conditioner running already. I am bound and determined to make a handle for the valve on the starboard head. I’m going to run over to the boat, apply bleach to anything in the head I might conceivably touch or even come near, and try to determine exactly what I have to make.

This is where Chinese measuring tools come in handy. There is no way I’d take my Mitutoyo or Helios calipers and clamp them to a toilet part. But Chinese…hey, that’s what they’re made for!

I should break down and get a Harbor Freight digital. Seven bucks won’t kill me. Most of my measurements will be right on target if they’re within ten thousandths, so most of the time, I am not going to need a really good instrument. And besides, whenever I mention calipers and accuracy, wise guys pipe up and tell me real men use micrometers.

I can’t decide whether to use brass or aluminum. I think either will be strong enough. Brass will turn green, and aluminum will look like…aluminum. Neither will corrode enough to matter.

Whatever. I can make both.

Not sure how I’ll slice the brass off. I bought a 36″ rod (a drop at a very good price), and it’s 1 1/2″ wide. I think that’s the exact size of my spindle hole. I doubt I can cram it in there for parting. I can always fire up the dry cut saw.

I hate to cut the brass. It’s so pretty, just the way it is.

The smartest thing would be to use stainless. All I have is 304, so it will rust a little, but it shouldn’t gall up against the valve’s stainless screw the way the old handle did. And I think electrolysis may be what destroyed that handle. It will be less of a problem with a stainless handle.

It looks like I may eventually “need” a hydraulic press. If anyone can tell me what size is good for piddling around in the garage, I would appreciate it. I don’t think I’ll be using this a whole lot, so it may be okay to go small and save space.

Later today my presence will be required for a sea trial, to see if the boat’s starboard engine still runs hot. Should be fun.

Fifth Stage of Being a Codger

Thursday, June 25th, 2009


I replaced my beloved fishing glasses today. And I am bummed.

Why is it that every product I take a liking to gets discontinued? I guess it’s because I’m getting old fast, and by the time I realize I like something, it’s been on the market for a quarter of a century.

I used to wear Flying Fisherman sunglasses on the boat. They cost $12.95, the lenses were glass, they were polarized, they were the right color, and it didn’t bother me at all that they looked hideous. I kept a spare pair on hand, just in case they got discontinued. We started fishing again this year (I think we took all of last year off), and when I looked for my favorite glasses, they were gone. I don’t know if someone stole them, or what. You would have to be a pretty sorry thief to be satisfied with beat-up fishing glasses that look like something a doctor might make you wear. Whatever the deal is, they’re gone.

My dad is having some work done on his boat. The right engine has been running hot, so he had a mechanic run acid through it and change both of his raw water impellers. We ran by a marine supply store to look for gasket material for sea strainers, and while I was there, I bit the bullet and bought new glasses.

Naturally the ones I like are no longer available. I got some squinty ones that will probably be better in practice. But I want the old ones!

I look like a complete idiot when I fish. I wear a lavender dress shirt I got at an outlet store. I wear a horrible straw hat, held on with a chin strap. I do not care. I hate the sun so much it’s hard to describe it, and I also hate sunblock, so I cover everything I can. I wish I knew where to get a burqa with an embroidered sailfish on it.

I’m taking more of an interest in the boat these days. My dad spends a lot of time fooling with it now, so it’s a good excuse to get together and do things. And now that I’m somewhat tool-proficient, I can do a lot more. I need to make a knob for the starboard head; I guess I could fire up the lathe and give that a try. The brass is already here.

He thinks he may be able to con our boat guy (“boat guy” and “mechanic” are two different things) to take us out for yellowtail this weekend. That would be great. The wind is going to be from the west, so dolphin fishing is likely to be lame. I’d love to get some yellowtail, or some big snapper and grouper big enough to cut into fingers.

We ought to try to get some amberjacks. Some people won’t eat them because they get worms in their tails, but the worms are big and white, and you don’t have to eat the part with the worms. You can spot it and remove it. Let’s be serious. Fish have all sorts of parasites. The great thing about AJs is that they’re considerate enough to have parasites you can see and get rid of. With other fish, you enjoy your sushi and then find out later that you have toxoplasmosis or a tapeworm 30 feet long. Or ciguatera. That’s fun.

I love amberjack. I don’t know why more people don’t like it. Other than the giant worms.

The mill is still in shipping limbo. I guess I should email the seller and see if he has any idea which continent it’s on. I need to make a square hole for the toilet knob; I guess I can grind a tool and mount it on the lathe headstock and use it like a broach. It will take forever to open up the hole, but it will give a beautiful result. It will be a shame to put it in a sweaty little room where people pee.

Making the body of the knob would be easier on the mill. I figure a cross shape is easiest. I can make it by drilling four big holes in a disk and then opening them up to make it a cross. This would take like ten minutes on a mill. On a lathe, I have to find a way to chuck it, and locating the centers of the holes will be fun with no DRO. How I’ll open the holes up, I can’t even guess.

Another option is to take a short cylinder of 304 stainless and put a square hole in the middle. Not elegant, but it will last, and it will give lots of leverage.

There are a lot of things a machinist/woodworker could do to improve the boat. Example: replace the engine room hatch covers. Two of these–the ones you use to get in and out all the time–are very heavy. The frames are some kind of hardwood, and I would guess that the panels are one-inch-plus marine hardwood. They weigh maybe 35 pounds each. My dad does not need to be lifting those, and they don’t need to be that heavy. Sheet aluminum would be more than strong enough. I could make the panels and then screw them to wooden frames, or if I wanted to do a better job, I could use aluminum for everything. I’d have to insulate it well, but that’s not a problem.

I also want to make a part for his anchor chocks, so he can use “mud palms” (look it up) and still chock the anchor. By the way, if you need an anchor, I can’t recommend Fortress brand anchors highly enough. I’ve had the galvanized kind, and Fortress aluminum anchors are so much better, it’s not even worth discussing. They bite fast and hold like you would not believe.

I’m hoping to have a garage day tomorrow. Maybe I can get that knob started. Or at least make a mess and enjoy the air conditioning and the stereo. I have all sorts of metal to play with now, so I have no excuse for not generating swarf.

The Left Hand Doesn’t Know What the Right is Doing

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

We Should all be as Heartless as Dick Cheney

One of the things that irks me about perceptions of conservatives is that we are somehow considered less compassionate and less generous than liberals. Of course, these things are not true. In fact, the opposite is true. We give more to charity. We are more likely to offer our lives on the battlefield. We support churches with more generosity.

Here’s some information from Charity Navigator, which is not a political organization:

Who gives the most in America: conservatives or liberals?

A. There is a persistent stereotype about charitable giving in politically progressive regions of America: while people on the political right may be hardworking and family-oriented, they tend not to be very charitable toward the less fortunate. In contrast, those on the political left care about vulnerable members of society, and are thus the charitable ones. Understanding “charity” in terms of voluntary gifts of money (instead of government income redistribution), this stereotype is wrong.

The fact is that self-described “conservatives” in America are more likely to give—and give more money—than self-described “liberals.” In the year 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more dollars to charity than households headed by a liberal. And this discrepancy in monetary donations is not simply an artifact of income differences. On the contrary, liberal families in these data earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families.

These differences go beyond money. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals. People who said they were “conservative” or “extremely conservative” made up less than one-fifth of the population, but donated more than a quarter of the blood. To put this in perspective, if political liberals and moderates gave blood like conservatives do, the blood supply in the United States would surge by nearly half.

One major explanation for the giving discrepancy between conservatives and liberals is religion. In 2004, conservatives were more than twice as likely as liberals to attend a house of worship weekly, whereas liberals were twice as likely as conservatives to attend seldom or never. There are indeed religious liberals in America, but they are currently outnumbered by religious conservatives by about four to one.

It’s bizarre. We are taken to task repeatedly, simply because we don’t support mindless, incompetent, counterproductive giving that is the result of governmental coercion. The fact that we give freely, on our own initiative, receives no press. And journalists don’t like to point out that a big percentage of the “generous” liberals who vote for government handouts are likely recipients of the money in question. How is it generous to vote for the government to take someone else’s money and give it to you?

Still, I wonder if we do enough. My impression is that Satan steps in wherever he can find a moral fault with believers. Marxism, which is unquestionably Satanic, got a foothold because the lives of the lower classes were so wretched. They weren’t getting an even break. Had the upper classes treated workers better, it would have been harder to motivate them to generate social turmoil by fomenting revolution. Like Fred Smith (founder of Fedex) once said, no company gets a union unless it deserves one. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but maybe the principle is correct.

I wonder if private giving is everything it should be. I tend to doubt it. For example, I’m fairly sure tithing is uncommon. If it were the rule and not the exception, a substantial percentage of American incomes–maybe five percent–would be going to churches. And they wouldn’t know what to do with the money; they’d spend much more of it on social organizations. Charities would be swollen with capital.

I wonder about this because we have a political crisis on our hands. People who have no idea how economics works are blindly electing leftists who will eventually ruin us with their false generosity. And maybe we could reverse this trend if the needy were being served better by private organizations.

On the other hand, much of what is characterized as “need” is actually greed. It may be that perceived need always increases with the availability of handouts. Maybe increasing our giving will increase demand. But there’s a difference between private and governmental handouts: private handouts can be distributed with competence. The government doesn’t care if you deserve money. They only care if you vote. Private charities consider themselves stewards. Like Hebrew National, they answer to a higher authority.

Interesting question.

Whatever the answer is, I think we should all hope to be as lucky as the much-maligned Dick Cheney, who has given millions to charity. Not only did he and his wife make huge donations; they made donations that were huge in proportion to their total income. I would love to approach the Pearly Gates with something like that on my resume. It must be wonderful to find yourself in a position where you’re able to do that much good.

The odd thing about all this is that conservatives are doing a pretty good job of giving, and liberals are not, yet the political fortunes of liberals are waxing while ours wane. And one diabolical result of the move from private to governmental charity is that the givers are losing their blessings. The Bible makes it clear that we are not to give out of coercion. It apparently pleases God very, very little when a government forces people to do charity. So we are still losing the money, but we are not getting the full benefit of giving.

Another problem is that people feel entitled to government money. It therefore corrupts them. They become spoiled and ungrateful. When you have to go to a private entity or an individual for help, you know you’re getting a favor. You realize help is not certain. That has to be less corrupting.

I am not generous by nature. I had to be taught. Here (again) is a helpful passage from the Psalms; I had it printed on a Cafepress mug so I would have it in front of me:

1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

2 The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.

I consider that a set of promises, and I cling to it. I don’t believe God would put things like that in scripture, yet would not be willing to back it up. God does not give lip service. The Bible also says that when you give to the poor, you lend to God. And God always pays interest. You get something in return, and it appears that the best way to characterize it is to call it God’s favor. It’s not just a monetary transaction. You may be blessed with money, but the only thing you can be sure of is that he will take notice of you and watch out for you, as he did in the case of Cornelius the generous centurion. That’s how I see it at this time.

I don’t know if generosity can save conservatives from political failure, but I am sure it can save individual Christians from the curses that hit us as a nation. I suppose we are reaching the point where that will have to suffice.

Burner Frustrations Come to a Head

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Hand me the Sledge

I suffered a crushing defeat today. I had to give up on my useless DVD burner.

I have an NEC 3550A burner in my desktop. Which sits on the floor. Making it a floortop. The burner worked fine when I first got it, but it eventually went nuts and refused to burn anything. I have upgraded the firmware, even taking a chance on a shady souped-up version written by kooks. I have upgraded my burning software. I have sent logs to the people at Alcohol-Soft. Nothing has worked.

I threw in the towel. I have a new Samsung on the way. Had to order it, unless I wanted to shop locally and get the wrong thing and pay way too much. Maybe next week I’ll be able to burn disks without turning on my creaky laptop (which fails about half the time).

I was using the PC to burn machining disks from Smartflix. There is no way I can take notes on DVDs fast enough to get them back to Smartflix before a late fee kicks in, so I make copies, send the originals home, take notes while watching the copies, and then discard the copies. Because I was having so many burn failures, I was still having late-fee issues.

My new solution is to copy them to my hard drive. I don’t want to sit in my sweaty office watching machining videos, but if I have the copies on my drive, I can burn them later, when the new burner gets here. After that, I can watch them in comfort. Either on the couch, or in the new Multimedia Garage.

The guys who sell videos are smart. Or maybe they’re just lame. They use ordinary purple recordable disks. These things are harder for DVD players to read, and they’re harder to copy. And they seem to get damaged easily. I’ve had several Smartflix disks refuse to play all the way. This makes life easier on the video guys, because it makes it tough to rent and copy the disks. If they upgraded to real equipment, their disks would be just like the ones you get when you buy movies. They’d last forever, and every machine in the universe would read them with ease.

I am tempted to take the old burner out and crush it with a sledgehammer. My dad has a 13-pounder on his boat, for removing props. I think it would be perfect for this job. I remember the joy the guys in Office Space got from destroying the Evil Printer. Or was it a fax machine?

The mill’s status is unknown. The last communication I had indicated an arrival date of around…yesterday. But it was not a firm date, and I have no mill, so I’m assuming the machine is still being twiddled with. When people are slow to ship you something expensive, they always want to let you know as soon as it leaves their facilities, so you won’t post nasty things about them on the web or try to back out of the deal. I have not received any authoritative shipping notices, so my best guess, based on being old and knowing how the world works, is that the folks who are drop-shipping the mill have not received the DRO yet. The mill is probably sitting in California right now, while irate Asian guys fume about the time it’s taking for the DRO to arrive from China.

The company is run by an Asian. That’s how I know the hypothetical angry guys are Asian.

It’s funny how we’re not allowed to say “Oriental” any more, even though it’s a completely harmless term (means “eastern”) and it’s more accurate than “Asian.” Benjamin Netanyahu is Asian. So is George Michael. But they’re not Oriental.

Wikipedia says “Oriental” is offensive in America, but not in England. That’s proof that it’s a legitimate term. Man, what is it with liberals? You can’t say “stewardess.” They tried to take “black” away from us, and blacks wouldn’t let them. American Indians got mad when they tried to make us stop saying “Indian.” What is the point of manufacturing a controversy where none should exist?

We can still say “hippie,” “moonbat,” “tree hugger,” and “feminazi.” I’m not letting those go.

I read something interesting today about milling machines. Evidently, if you really want to do good woodworking, you’re better off with metalworking machines than woodworking machines. You get more control.

I’m sure there are drawbacks. You have to watch out for oil and grease and swarf, and the tools turn slowly by woodworking standards. But imagine how much easier it would be to rout, using a milling machine instead of a router. You clamp the piece down. You use your DROs to make sure the measurements are right. Then you stand back in complete safety while the power feed does the work. No feeding your fingers into the bit. No eighth-of-an-inch errors because you couldn’t keep something from moving around. I guess if you really wanted to be a good woodworker, you’d buy an old mill and rig it so the spindle turned at 12,000 RPM. If the machine was worn-out and you screwed every cut up by ten thousandths, no one would ever know, because you’d still be super-accurate by woodworking standards.

The guy who was writing about it is an extremely proficient and experienced machinist. He pointed out a few pitfalls, such as using metal cutters on wood. But it sounded like a great idea, regardless.

Using a router is a giant pain. The work tries to jump, and sometimes it succeeds. It’s very hard to measure accurately. If you hold the router in your hands instead of using a table, it will do its best to tilt and cut big gouges in your wood, just when you think you’re about to finish your project without a hitch.

I wonder if there’s any reason I can’t put a 3-phase motor in my table saw and get a dry-cut blade for it to cut metal.

The mill will get here eventually, and then we’ll see what it will let me do.

Prayer Needed in Texas

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


Sad news from Aelfheld, who blogs over at Operation Enduring Service.

He has a friend named Dan Howell. Dan is a firefighter in Beaumont, Texas. His sister Mary Ellen has cancer. It’s in her lungs and lymph nodes, and it has gone to her brain. Right now she is also fighting an infection. The family is asking for prayer.

Here is a link to OES. Here is a link to Mary Ellen’s page on the Caringbridge website. It’s a nonprofit-owned site that provides individual blogs for patients.

Toad Strangler

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’ll Send Marv Out for an Olive Branch

What a morning. You could say we’re having a bit of a drizzle. By that I mean it looks like dusk outside, the sound of thunder never quite goes away, and you would not be able to walk ten feet out there without getting soaked.

This is Tuesday. Every Tuesday, I have breakfast with my dad at a local deli. We’ll be a little late today. In weather like this you have to wait for a lull so you can brave the little segments between your car and shelter.

The Internet connection keeps flickering. I’m glad I don’t have any great need for it today.

Weather Underground says the local humidity is 100%. Doesn’t that mean we’re under water?

It’s funny how much it can rain here in a short time. The other day, Miami Beach got nine inches overnight. Mike and I grew up in a low-lying neighborhood with bad drainage. We used to take his jonboat out when it rained hard. We rode it up and down the street. The water in my yard got so deep once, my dog–a huge German shepherd–resorted to swimming. Kids went boogie-boarding on the sidewalk.

It’s a wonder we didn’t die of cholera after getting in that water.

It’s tapering off a little. Maybe it’s time to leave.

More: Honesty in Government

I decided to check the water situation, including watering restrictions, online. We’ve had a drought, so there are annoying rules that change a lot. Here’s the URL of a site I was directed to: weuseless.miamidade.gov/home.html.

Isn’t that nice? Government employees, admitting they’re useless.


Monday, June 22nd, 2009


I guess you could say it’s a little warm today. Miami has blistering sunshine (due to low latitude) and miserable humidity, but the temperature usually stays below 90 in the shade. Today we hit 100 in some places. It’s like August out there.

Oddly, the humidity is low by our standards, at 55%. That means you walk outside and feel like you just opened the oven door, but it takes over a minute for sweat to start running off of you, which is unusual in the summer.

I guess even Al Gore has a good day once in a while.

I received a bunch of metal today. One item: a loaf of 1018 steel. It’s just like a loaf of government cheese, only it’s steel. Same size and shape. I’m hoping I can cut it into tool holders. If not, it will make a really effective paperweight. It weighs 72 pounds. I’m a little nervous about dropping the dry cut saw on it, but I have Ridgid oil, and if it acts up, I guess I can quit.

I got a 36″ round bar of 360 brass. It’s about 1.5″ in diameter. I think. It’s so pretty, it will break my heart to slice it up.

I also have a long 12L14 round rod, a 12L14 rectangular rod, a long 304 stainless rod, and a long A2 rod. It seems like cheap rectangular or square mild steel drops in easily machined alloys are not easy to find.

I found a company that publishes photos of the mill I ordered. I’m shocked at how nice it looks. It’s gorgeous. Even the Chinese DRO. Of course, those photos are the closest I can get, because there was a shipping delay. The DRO wasn’t in stock, or something. For some reason, the DRO took an extra week to install, so I assume they didn’t have it when they needed it.

Here’s something useful I’ve learned. When you receive a box of steel odds and ends, and you have to stick one in your chuck right away because you have no self-control, try not to machine off the place where the sender used a marker to write the metal’s designation.

Geez, that mill looks nice. I can’t get over it.