Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ain't No Time To Hate

I have to say, I am incredibly proud of my fellow nerds for this story:


Comic-Con Fans Scare Away Westboro Baptist Church

 

About a week ago, we reporting that members of the Westboro Baptist Church were planning to protest Comic-Con on July 22nd for about an hour, claiming that people have turned comic book characters into idols.

For those who have never heard of the church... It is headed by Fred Phelps and is known for protesting funerals of American servicemen killed overseas.

As promised, several church members showed up to protest, but they quickly ran into about two hundred Comic-Con fans, who were dressed up as superheroes and carried signs that read everything from "Odin is God" to "God loves Gay Robin." As a result, the protesters gave up and left the San Diego event early.

Phelps & his family cult (the "church" is composed almost entirely of his own family), are a hate group who first rose to prominence by protesting the funerals of murdered homosexuals & AIDS patients with signs such as "God hates fags".  (I'm not going to get into debating their logic or link to them, since they're idiots who are better ignored).  Some friends & I were discussing the above story via email, and I think one of them summed it up best:


"The Westboro idiots made the mistake of stepping into someone
else's absurdity, so mocking was the completely appropriate
response". 

 I think he's exactly right.  While there are groups such as the Patriot Guard Riders who dedicate themselves to peacefully opposing Westboro Baptist, it still creates the publicity & tension they want.  The beauty of the counter-protest at Comic Con was that it was the perfect counter-point to these idiots and their absurd cause - by being even more absurd and more ridiculous (albeit in a fun way), it completely robbed them of any power they have to incite hatred.


Good job, guys.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Looking Through A Glass Onion

I know that most of the people who read this blog don't do so for my opinions on computers & technology, but there's been something bugging me lately - Steve Jobs.  See I looove Apple products & their design aesthetic - but, I recently bought Android - powered phones for my wife & I, mostly because AT&T's network is crap in my area.   As such, I've been paying a lot more attention to articles, podcasts, etc., regarding phones in general.  Even the least technology-oriented of you have probably heard about the controversy of the leaked iPhone.  While I definitely didn't approve of the treatment of the journalist (yes, media outlets, some bloggers are legitimate journalists, get over it), what really ticked me off was this interview, where Jobs said the following:

     "I got a lot of advice from people that said, 'you've gotta just let it slide..You shouldn't go after a journalist because they bought stolen property and they tried to extort you'...I ended up concluding that the worst thing that could possibly happen..is if we [Apple] change our core values and start letting it slide. I can't do that; I'd rather quit."

Never mind that not only did they NOT try to "extort you" (actually, they tried to give the phone back first), Let's talk about your "core values".  Apple included freakin' CIRCUIT DIAGRAMS with the Apple IIe.  Now your hardware is locked up ten ways from Sunday.  It's not user servicable.  We can't write our own code or install programs unless you pre-approve it.  We have to use your approved accessories, or resort to buying knock-offs from Chinese sweatshops for pennies on the dollar.  You've bent over backward making concessions to get into bed with the music & book publishing companies.  You deny access to one of the most popular Internet platforms of all time because of a stupid fifteen-year-old grudge.  You ruin people over speculation on a web site.  You're so far away from Apple's "core values" that jack-booted thugs kicking in a harmless tech journalist's door is the least troubling thing in the big picture.

Remember, "If you can't open it, you don't own it".

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank You

Photo by IslesPunkFan

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

With A Sword And A Pistol By His Side

Hey all -

Got the bike registered and cleaned up the other day, taking it's condition from "deplorable" to "barely acceptable" in an afternoon. It still needs a thorough detail job and an oil change, but I worked on it for five hours the other day, on the hottest day of the year so far, in the middle of the afternoon - I didn't even think about sunscreen, so now I'm doing a pretty good impression of a lobster without even trying. I'm going to snap some pics and maybe even a riding vid here soon, but we've had a guy out at work and I keep getting called in for OT. The only other notable thing is some supplies for the cellar that arrived today:


-MacBaren Plumcake
-McClelland Frog Morton
-bulk Sugar Barrel
-Brebbia polish
-shank brush
-lots 'o cleaners!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nobody Knows Anything About My Existence

So while we were in Gatlinburg there were several tobacconists I was hoping to visit, but unfortunately I didn't get the chance to - this was a family vacation with my parents, and while my wife doesn't care about my pipes, I didn't want to get The Look from my Mom.  However, we did make a trip to one of my favorite shops in the area, Smoky Mountain Knife Works.  The main reason was that I wanted to pick up a Case Baby Doc to use as a pipe knife.  Everyone split up and while I was walking to their Case department, I passed by their Zippo section and saw a very nice Peterson gift set that included a Donegal Rocky #106 and a Zippo lighter with pipe chimney.  Since I had budgeted part of my vacation money for a new pipe, and I didn't own a Peterson yet, I decided to pick it up:



...and here is the knife I picked up, a Case Baby Doc with green jigged bone handles:


...anyways, more on my other knife acquisitions in a day or two.  I'm also planning on working on the bike in the next week or so, stay tuned.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Every Picture Tells A Story Don't It

Hey all -

Just got back from a vacation in the Smokies with my wife & parents - I'll have some posts coming up about that, but until then here are some pics I took on the trip:

(Click for full size)






Thursday, April 29, 2010

Project Files: High Voltage

So the wife & I have several mini-vacations planned this summer - one of the things that's always a pain for a gadget freak like me is running all over the house, rounding up & unplugging all the various chargers / cables / batteries / etc. for all my gizmos, and packing them away.  The good news is that you can get a charger for just about anything on eBay nowadays, usually for under three bucks shipped (as long as you're willing to wait for it to come on the slow boat from China).  Over the past couple of months I've been buying bits & pieces to make a kit that would be able to charge damn near everything I own, from just about any source - then it could live in my truck or suitcase and I wouldn't have to worry about it any more.  I had a gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods that was expiring, and found a cool little North Face travel bag on clearance that looked perfect for it.  Here it is:


Contents:

3.5mm audio cable
110v AC to USB adapter (x2)
2000mAh battery w/ USB / mini-USB / Nintendo DS adapter
iPod A/V output cable
USB angle extension
USB female to male adapter
USB to Samsung cable
Retractable mini-USB cable
12v outlet splitter
Retractable iPod cable (x2)
Retractable USB cable (x2)
12v Nintendo DS charger
12v to USB adapter
Spare headphones (x2)
AA/AAA battery charger
4 AA & 4 AAA lithium ion rechargeable batteries
4 AA Energizer Titanium batteries
12v to Motorola charger
Stanley 4-in1 screwdriver
Gerber Artifact multi-tool

I'm still waiting on a 110v AC to 12v inverter, and a 110v charger for the wife's phone to arrive in the mail to complete it.  When this is in my truck, it accompanied by a 400w inverter, so that gives me yet another option.  One of these days I'm gonna pony up for one of those really nice Brunton folding solar chargers, and I'll be good to go anywhere...

Bent All Out Of Shape

So when I bought my Kaywoodie Canadian on an impulse, I went online and started researching Kaywoodies, since I knew practically nothing about them.  While browsing their shape charts, I came across the Chinrester:


I was immediately taken with this oddball pipe.  It's design is completely superfluous - there are many other pipes you could buy that are a more accommodating shape for a "clencher".  It seems like a solution in search of a problem.  But it's also one of those things that's oddly elegant in it's functionality - like a last-minute fix that a frustrated pipe smoker came up with using a blowtorch or a heat gun, and it worked so well he decided to sell 'em.

I started browsing eBay, and got outbid on some Kaywoodies, but wound up finding a Yello-Bole version for a song:



(Kaywoodie & Yello-Bole were bought by the same firm in 1955, so this is essentially the same pipe, sold under a different brand).  I couldn't really tell from the auction posting, but the pipe is barely used - it looks like it's had maybe one partial bowl smoked in it.  Not a bad find for ten bucks...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey Bulldog Woof

The postman dropped something off for me today:


... a Butz-Choquin rusticated bulldog from Iwan Ries and Co,, along with some of their house blend "Ko Ko" (a burley blend) and a free sample of their own Three Star Blue.  I have been wanting a bulldog for a while, and I couldn't pass up the price on this one.  I was wondering if I would like it, as opinions on French-made pipes in general, and Butz-Choquins in particular, are pretty polarized.  I'm happy to report that it smokes great - it probably stayed cooler than any other pipe I own.  the acrylic bit doesn't feel as "sturdy" as some other I own, but at the price I paid I'm not going to complain...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Spent Some Time In The Mudville Nine

I saw something today that made me gag just looking at the package:



In case you can't tell from the crappy cell phone pic, those are HOT DOG FLAVORED POTATO CHIPS.

Bleeeargh.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Fixing A Hole

Hey all -

 Did some tweaking to the blog... Blogger added a much-needed "labels" function since I played with it last - you'll see different categories one the right, so if you're looking for a specific topic check there first.

-dG

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

...And The Piper At The Gates of Dawn

So Red mentioned that he picked up a pipe, and I warned of the dangers of falling down the rabbit hole that is pipe collecting. He was interested in seeing some of my collection, so I thought I'd post 'em here.

A bit of background - I was a cigarette smoker for, oh, sixteen years or so. This wasn't a problem when I was a teenager, but when I got older I got tired of not being able to run up a flight of stairs without wheezing, as well as not being able to smoke anywhere. I gave up cigarettes but increased my consumption of smokeless tobacco, which was my father's primary vice for most of his life. After I met my wife, she made it clear that she was none too fond of that habit. I am pretty much resigned to my fate as a nicotine addict, and she finds a pipe the least objectionable method of delivery, so that is how we arrived here. On top of all that I, like many others, have fond memories of my grandfather and his pipes, as evidenced by this picture of me at his house thirty-some years ago:



Aren't I cute? Anyway. I warned Red about the expense of pipe collecting, but the truth is it can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. You can collect $5 corncobs or $50 Savenelli's or $100 Stanwells or $500 Dunhills or $1000+ artisan pipes and have as much fun as the next guy, regardless of the size of your bank account. Here's a few picks from my modest collection:


Missouri Meerschaum corncobs

Few pipes smoke as consistently good as Missouri Meerschaum corncob pipes - even the most elitist pipe snobs will admit that. Considering that most of them are under $10, picking up one of these + a pouch of Prince Albert or Captain Black is one of the cheapest, and most rewarding, ways to start a pipe-smoking career. The chief complaint about MM cobs is the cheap plastic bits. (The second-most common complaint is that you look like a Hayseed smoking them, but I'm past vanity at this point in my life). The pipe in the foreground of this picture came from my local drugstore and lives in my truck, where I don't care what happens to it. The pipe in the background is one of the "higher end" MM cobs with a hardwood bottom, and has an acrylic replacement "Forever Stem" from Walker Briar Works. With the Forever Stem + MM cob, you can be into a pipe that smokes as well as anything on the planet for around twenty-five bucks.



Club bent rusticated billiard

This was my first briar pipe, what would usually be referred to as a "basket" pipe (so called because many manufacturers offer cheaper machine made / factory second pipes at a discount to tobacconists, who would keep these inexpensive pipes in a basket by the cash register, for novices or as cheap impulse buys). I am lucky enough to have a nice tobacconist shop just around the corner from my work, and when I was ready to move on from "drugstore" tobacco, I stopped in and asked their advice. They set me up with this pipe and a sampling of their most popular blends. While not a high-dollar pipe by any means, this pipe smokes nicely.



Nording Natural Freehand

Erik Nørding is a giant in the pipe world, arguably the most famous of the Danish pipe makers, and with good reason. This was my first "brand name" pipe, and it's one of my favorites (I'm smoking it right now as I'm typing this). The "natural" means that the bowl is unstained & unwaxed, which is kind of neat because the pipe naturally darkens over time from the tobacco and the oils in your hands, resulting in a truly "one-of-a-kind" piece.



Falcon straight

The Falcon is an interesting concept - they use an aluminum stem and threaded wooden bowls to create a modular pipe system. See, briar pipes should be "rested" between smokes, to release the retained moisture - some say up to several days for best results. The concept with the Falcon is that the aluminum stem helps cool the smoke, and the customer could purchase several bowls that could be swapped out, eliminating the need for multiple pipes throughout the day. The above Falcon was assembled from a box of parts purchased on eBay that unfortunately turned out to be 90% junk - this is only serviceable pipe that I was able to put together out of all of it.



Kaywoodie Canadian

For a long time, Kaywoodie had a reputation as a good, solid, inexpensive "working man's pipe", although in actuality they produced pipes than ran the gamut from drug-store cheapies to high-end artisan pipes. Unfortunately, after purchase by a new owner in the 1970's quality went in the toilet, and the reputation of the company suffered for a long time. Today, a new owner is working hard to restore the Kaywoodie name to it's former glory, and collectors are re-discovering the higher-quality Kaywoodies from earlier times. Judging from the nomenclature, I believe the above pipe is from 1955 - 1956. I picked it up at my local tobacconists' shop, and it's quickly become one of my favorites.



Dr. Grabow Riviera

There are probably more Dr. Grabow pipes out there than just about anything else. If you start searching thrift stores & flea markets for "estate" pipes ("estate" is just a nice-sounding term for "used") 90% of them are going to be no-name basket pipes or Dr. Grabows. And for good reason - they're not bad pipes for the money, at all. (I think the current high-end Dr. Grabow retails in the $20 range, and is available at most drugstores). I bought this homely little pipe, cleaned & sanitized, for $8 off eBay.

As if the pipes weren't bad enough, smokers bitten by the bug quickly get the urge to try as many different tobaccos as possible, and you will start hearing people talking about their "cellars" - this just means their tobacco "stash", to borrow a less elegant term. Many people buy tobaccos in quantity and age them, like wine. Here is a pic of my modest cellar:



There are more different kinds of tobacco out there than I can even go into here, and many others do a much better job of speaking to that than I could. And I haven't even touched on tampers, or pouches, or racks, or a million other topics that pipe aficionados love to debate endlessly. Here are some links I've found useful:

Pipe Smokers Forum

Tamp & Puff
Pipe Chat
Smokers Forums
Tobacco Reviews.com

So anyways...

...where were we?

Oh, right. Anyways, regarding my extended absence: My wife is currently working full time AND attending nursing school full time - one of the reasons for this is so we can "work less, live more" down the road. Part of the agreement is that I assume ALL the household duties while she's in school - so in addition to my full-time job and freelance work, I am doing all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. On top of all this, we are making a conscious effort to spend more time with our families, all of whom live between 90 minutes - 9 hours away from us.

So, yeah.

As far as the state of the blog, I am hoping to revamp the site in the coming weeks. A lot of the people who I view as "contemporaries" as far as blogging (in that we all started around the same time & watched each other try to figure all this out) have changed the name, look, and/or focus of their blogs to better suit them, and I am sorely behind in this area. While I would love to have the focus to produce an informative, up-to-date blog on a singular topic, I've got the attention span of a fruit fly and always have. I'm going to try to find a way to "compartmentalize" my posts according to my different hobbies/interests, and hopefully all of you will bear with my growing pains for a while...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chillaxin'


Hey all. Not much to write about lately - to be honest, I've been doing too much "real life" socializing with friends & family to update the blog much, and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Hope everyone's having a good summer, I'll be back to regular updates shortly.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Want To Entertain Your Cats?


...get a bird.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Express Yourself



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pumpkins Scream In The Dead Of Night

The way we roll:



Happy Halloween, everybody!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Project Files: Everyday I'm At My Desk

So, my Mom practically lives at thrift stores / garage sales / estate auctions / etc.- one positive side effect of this is that if you need furniture, appliances, clothes, or just about anything else, she has it and will gladly give it to you. She buys stuff that's a bargain regardless of whether or not she needs it, because she knows she'll find a home for it eventually. Think of it as a combination of freecycling and karma.

The down side of her affliction is that all the stuff is in constant rotation, and sometimes she gives away valuable antiques, or family heirlooms even, for cheap or free. One of the items I was long concerned about was my childhood desk - I made it very clear, in no uncertain circumstances, that this was to be kept for me until I had room for it. Well, now that I've bought my own place the chickens are coming home to roost, because a load of my old crap shows up every time she visits. Last time she was giving us a freezer she came across, and loaded next to it on the trailer? Yep, my old desk.

I thought I would do a write-up of my first attempt at furniture refinishing, in the hopes it will inspire someone to rescue a nice piece of old furniture instead of buying more of that put-it-together-yourself-with-an-allen-wrench stuff. Besides, most of that flat-pack furniture is crap - It's usually slightly unsteady at best, the particle board shelves sag after a year, the plastic laminate on the edges peels off, and if you try to move it the camlocks warp or rip big hunks out of the particle board, rendering it useless. I constantly see beautiful pieces of furniture at thrift stores and garage sales, usually for under ten bucks. All they need is a few free evenings of work and $20 worth of materials.

Here is my starting point:



As I said, it's a basic desk that belonged to my father when he was a boy, and was used by me throughout elementary & high school, so it's at least 60 years old. You can see the surface is scarred by x-acto cuts & enamel paint (from my teenage model-building days), water rings, and lots of general wear. (This is why you don't give a piece of antique furniture to a teenage boy). Some of the cuts in the surface have had dirt ground down into them and will still be visible (unless I planed the top of the desk, which is beyond my skill / finances / motivation at this point). That doesn't really bother me, though - I just see them as "battle scars". The marks on the side are dirt/mildew from being stored in a basement for twenty years. I was told the desk was made of cherry, but I don't know if that's right or not. (sorry for the weird angle on a lot of these pics - I was working on my back patio, which is a pretty tight space).

The first step is to give the piece a good cleaning, preferably with a damp rag (don't bother using furniture polish or wood soap at this point, it's all gonna get stripped off soon). After the piece dries, you're ready to strip. I purchased a product called "Peel Away 6":



I bought this product because it is supposedly low-odor and more environmentally friendly than a lot of the other products, and it was a fairly small container (I didn't need a gallon of stripper). It was under $10. I also got a plastic scraper for a buck, and I had a SOFT wire brush on hand that I used for getting into crevices:

***CAUTION*** FOLLOW ALL DIRECTIONS WHEN WORKING WITH CHEMICAL STRIPPERS AND OTHER CHEMICALS!!! Some of this stuff is nasty. Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, preferable outside. Dispose of all chemicals, rags, etc., in the proper manner.

The first step is brushing the stripper on - I used cheap disposable foam brushes, just 'cause it's easier. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this step, as I was up to my wrists in caustic chemicals and wasn't about to grab my digital camera. Just follow the instructions and brush on an even coat. The "dwell time" (how long you let the stripper soak in) on my product was listed as "From 1 - 48 hours". Gee, thanks. I let the stripper soak for 3 - 4 hours and tried scraping:





The old finish came up pretty easily, except in a few spots. After I removed all the stripper, I re-applied it to the few spots that still had some of the old finish stuck to them and let them soak for a few more hours. This got off 95% of the old finish.

After you are done stripping, the piece needs to be wiped down with mineral spirits:



(About $6 for a can, I think). This deactivates the stripper and leaves a clean surface to work with.

Wiping down the top:



Using an old toothbrush to get all the stripper out of the spindles:



After being wiped down, I sanded the few spots that still had some stubborn bits of finish stuck to them. I had a detail sander, but it wouldn't have been much work by hand:



I also bought a sanding sponge (around $2) to get into the hard spots:



The sponges are nice because once they get clogged with sawdust, you can just wash 'em out and reuse them.

After sanding, I wiped the desk down with mineral spirits again, mostly just to get rid of the sawdust.

Before the desk could be finished, it had a few repairs that needed addressed. Luckily, none of then are particularly difficult. The first is four small holes on the left edge where someone had a desk lamp screwed into the surface:



For this repair, I used stainable wood filler ($2 a tube) and a putty knife:



Get any loose sawdust or debris out of the holes, then squirt the filler in:



Smooth the filler out with a putty knife:



Note: Don't scrape the filler off flush with the surface yet - leave it "mounded" up a little. The filler shrinks as it dries, and if you leave it flush now there will be depressions after it dries, and you'll have to do it again. After the filler cures, sand it down flush with the surface.

The next repair is that one of side of the drawer has come unglued:



This is easily fixed with a little glue along the dovetails...



...and a clamp:



Wipe off the excess wood glue with a damp paper towel before it dries. I let this repair sit overnight.

Now we're ready for staining. I used a small container of cherry stain and a sponge brush:



(Again, I don't have pics of the stain being applied, 'cause I had my hands full). Just brush on a nice even coat. After it sits for 5 - 15 minutes, wipe it off:



DO NOT let the stain sit until it gets tacky, or you'll regret it - it'll be a major pain to get off.

After the first coat of stain:



In the above picture you can see kind of a whitish haze along the short edges - I don't know if this was because I didn't get all of the stripper off, or because I was working outside in humid conditions, but I had to spot sand these areas and wipe them down with mineral spirits again. After that, I applied a second coat of stain, let is soak for quite a bit longer (probably 30 - 45 minutes), and wiped it off. It looked pretty good after that.

Now, we're ready to seal it. I chose a polyurethane finish:



Looking around on the Internet, a lot of people dislike polyurethane, especially for antique furniture, since it's a modern material and not "period correct". But, it's extremely tough, inexpensive, and easy for an amateur to get good results with. This desk was a workhorse for it's first sixty years, and I don't plan on babying it for the next 60, so I choose poly. There's no pics of it being applied (again, hands were full), but you just brush on a nice even coat. DON"T OVERWORK IT, or you'll have brush marks in the final finish - a sponge brush is ideal for polyurethane. Brush marks will settle out as it dries. The instructions for mine said to sand the first coat after four hours with fine sandpaper, then wipe it down and apply the second coat. Unfortunately I had to let the desk sit for a day and a half after the first coat, and when I test-sanded an inconspicuous spot the next day it was showing scratches, so I got nervous and applied the second coat without sanding between coats. Maybe I just got lucky, but I think it came out great:



Overall, I was pretty happy with the results for my first effort. Now I have my eye on a butcher block kitchen island at the local thrift store for $8...