Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shameless tool reviews

OK, I will admit it. I am not a big cordless kind of guy. I like my 4 amp corded drill, that I use more as a screw driver than anything else. I like power, I want the “Binford 2000” kind of power. I have two Black and Decker drills. I have done major projects involving putting in lots of screws with both of them. My older one, now 20 years old, was initiated with fastening sheet metal skirting around the mobile home I lived in at the time. I put in 150 screws in less than an hour. My current one has done four decks, a room of dry wall, two exterior door installations, and many other general projects. I taped the 15 foot extension cord to it so I always have it handy.

I admit that Norm Abrams and I have about as much in common as ducks and hydrogen. He is able to create a replica bonnet-topped Queen Anne-legged tiger maple highboy, in 30 minutes, and I can barely put together a bookshelf, if it uses 2x4s and 1x10s. Heck, I can’t even get miters to come out right most of the time. I am not a high end cabinet maker by any means.
But Norm has that multigazilion dollar workshop and plenty of assistants. Norm has this, and I have that. I would love to see Norm build that highboy in my shop. I don’t have the spindle sander, band saw, planer, bar clamps, router table, or even a router for that matter.

I suppose I am more like Tim the-tool-man Taylor, except I am unlikely to rig my dishwasher with a Harley engine. I do put together Sauder furniture with fair regularity, in fact, I have 4 bookshelves, a computer desk, and an entertainment center all by them. For the most part, I find them relatively easy to complete.

I do use tools though, and I do like to build things. I own more saws than the average guy, and only use three of them with any regularity. I love my 1 inch table top belt sander, and it wasn’t until I started using a drill press did I realize that I could in fact drill a non crooked hole. I am either building big things for my yard, or small wood animals.

I believe in a place for everything and everything on top of the workbench. Chances are the last thing I used will be the next thing I need, so it should be right where I need it – on top. My tool bucket is probably the most organized thing I have. My drill sits right on top where I can get it easy, and most of the hand tools I use are with in reach when I need them.

When I got the new Black and Decker VPX cordless screw driver and saw, I was a little ambivalent that it would be useful to me. Remember I like power. This set is a light weight set. It is not a heavy duty set that would stand up to deck building or drywall installations.

However, I am a convert. I have been using it more than I expected. There are a lot more little things I do with a screw driver than I realized. I like the quick change chuck, and paired with my Black and Decker bit set, works well for light duty drilling.

My first project with the set was to build two small shelves for our new hamster cages. This was not a huge project, but it came at the same time as the new tools. I need to raise one up to connect the two together with the typical hamster tubes. I used the saw to cut a 2x4, and the screwdriver to put it all together. While this is a small project, it worked out pretty well.

I am sure I will use the saw much more outside doing things like trimming bushes, and small branches. Other then the small project I have not used it much. But since the blade on it is sharp, it worked great on the one project I did do with it. I like that it has a quick release on the blade to make changing easier. On my other similar saws, I have to use either a screw driver or an allen wrench.

I think the screw driver will become an upstairs tool, where I can get to it easily, along with the flash light. Again, the tools are nice, light duty tools, and surprisingly good. Coming from a guy that doesn’t normally like cordless tools, that’s great.

A couple small design notes. I would like the battery to be shaped in such a way that there is only one way to put it into the tool. As it is, I slide it in, and then realize I have it in backwards. It just doesn’t snap in then. Also, I wish the flashlight had a more ergonomic grip to make it easier to find the power button. I should not have to look at the flashlight (in the dark mind you) to figure out how to turn it on. Otherwise, the tools are very well done.

These tools will become part of my regular tool kit now. Not just for special occasions.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Some Terrible News

Dart is dead, long live Dart.

The 6 year old gold fish, well actually white and gold, measured at over 6 inches. Sadly Dart died two nights ago in moving him to a larger tank. Ironic how buying a $150 30 gallon tank to give him more room ended in his going belly up, literally. Dart was a good fish, and if you were quick, you could pet him. Now he has become fertilizer for the little white pine. The little white pine is the headstone to many animals, so Dart will be among his friends, mouse and fish alike.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Weird Karma – A series of unrelated events

For Mouse’s birthday in October, my mom gave her a Klutz Book “How to Tell Time.” It came with a wonderful little watch, perfect for small wrists. Mouse was trying to tell time in no time. A few days after she got it, she lost the watch. We searched high and low, every room, every bag, every coat, the watch was gone.

A few weeks ago, I twisted my ankle. I probably sprained it pretty good, and hobbled around for a few days. I put ice on it, and wrapped it in an ace bandage. It was making good progress, pain was slowly diminishing, and I was walking without a limp again.

Then, to my chagrin, I did it again. I stepped off our back deck, twisted my ankle, and fell down to avoid really doing a lot more damage. Right after I fell, I felt something slide across my chest.

When I turned 21 my dad gave me a watch. I have worn that watch for 23 years. It keeps perfect time. It was a simple Seiko black sports watch with a metal band. The band shows the years of wear and the crystal has been replaced a few times, but it really was my favorite watch. I never took it off except when I went on international travel.

The thing that slid across my chest was my watch. My fall broke the band. For the first time since I was 21, I am not wearing that watch.

Last night as the Mouse was going to bed, she looked down between the mattress and the bed rails, and saw a polka dotted thing. She reached down to pull out – her watch.

Friday, April 06, 2007

In an ideal world.

Note, I am saying ideal world, not a perfect world. There is a difference.

In an ideal world government would work for the people. There would be 50 democratic senators, and 50 republican senators. There would be 217 democratic representatives, and 217 republican representatives, and one independent. Congress would have to work to consensus, not compromise, and agree on legislation that is truly for the common good. Campaigns would be by donation from individuals only. No corporations, no PACs.

In an ideal world, every person could get a job doing their life’s passion and get paid a decent living wage for it. Artists would be able to be artists. Parents who want to stay home and be parents could. Writers could write, There would be enough diversity in work and workers to ensure that everything gets done. I hope someone has a passion for making burgers and fries, ‘cuase I got a passion for eating them.

In an ideal world, children get the education they need. No matter the community, no matter the school, each child gets a good education. College would be paid for some how some way. People shouldn’t have to start a career with more debt then my mortgage.

In an ideal world, health care would not be an issue. Everyone would get the care they need. Emergency rooms would not have to ask for insurance before treatment. Kids would not have to wait until they are past treatment before they get to see a doctor. Families would not go broke when a parent or child gets critically ill. Overly wealthy people who want to get their tummy tucks, facelifts, botox can still get that, only the doctors will have them wait until the kids with burns, broken bones and cleft palette are done first.

In an ideal world, neighbors would get along. The family that lives in the house next to you would be respectful and generous. The people that live in the apartment above you, would invite you to their parties. Neighboring cities rivalries will be settled on high school sports fields, and the teams will be so evenly matched that everyone will go home satisfied rather then angry. Neighboring countries will decide that getting along is better for everyone even if they are different. Wars would be unnecessary.

When a war is necessary, it would be like in days of old. The leaders of the countries would be leading the charge. Not sitting back in an undisclosed location. The war would end when the leader is captured and the flag is brought back to headquarters. The only injuries would be to those soldiers who accidentally trip on the field.

In an ideal world, religion will be personal. A relationship with God, Goddess or other deities of choice will be a basis for love and caring rather then hatred. Organized religious entities will stay out of politics and politics will stay out of religion. Politicians will not decree religion. Religion would not decree politics.

In an ideal world, families would have enough time for their children. Children would grow up with a good sense of family. Families who want children can have them. Families that don’t won’t get hassled. Children will have the freedom to be kids, and learn and grow into responsible, caring contributing members of society.

In an ideal world, unwanted pregnancies would be avoided. Sex would be an enjoyable thing between two (or more) loving people. Marriage would be a lasting commitment between two people who love each other.

In an ideal world, all orphans would get adopted by loving caring parents, and truly live happily ever after.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I’m blogging again.

A lot has happened in the past year or so since I last posted. I won’t rehash a bunch of stuff so I will just start in again.

Happy New Year. Or I should say Happy Nauryz.

Three years ago, we were in Aktau, Kazakhstan, visiting with a child that would soon become our daughter. One of the wonderful things we did while we were there was to celebrate the Kazakh new year, Nauryz. There was a party at the orphanage with a recital by the older children (4 & 5 yr olds), food and dancing. The Bear (kushke bear for short) fell asleep on my shoulder that day. Later in the day, we went to the city celebration of Nauryz. There were bands playing music in the park, food and drink readily available. There were yurtas set up in the parks by different groups including the local university, and local businesses. We were invited in as honored guests and offered food and drink. We were given soup, sliced meats, cheese, crackers, flat bread, and other wonderful foods including camels milk - tastes like yogurt.

That day is probably the most symbolic event that happened, other then court and gotcha day, that exemplifies our new experience. A new year, a new family was born, a new baby was received into our family. That baby is now a preschooler. She is a wonderful spark of life with energy to give away. She is a dear child who has grown into a wonderful little girl.

This time of year, spring, is celebratory time for our family. The celebrations start with Kazakh new year, the first day of spring, then comes Gotcha day, and ends with Malika's birthday. Our family day is celebrated on the day we took official custody of Malika. We will eat some foods in that we identify with Kazakhstan, such as pilaf, (plov) and shish-ka-bob, sliced meats and cheeses and flat breads. I won't however imbibe in the Aktau cognac or vodka.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Idea of Fun

My youngest, the bear, was enthralled when we went to a pumpkin patch around Halloween. We went on a hayride and one of the sites was a “haunted barn” with an 8 foot spider, and a hanging skeleton. That was in October. She still talks about it. “Daddy? Uh uh punkin patch” “Daddy? Draw skeleton” “Daddy – draw silly skeleton.” Is this some sort of morbid obsession – at age 2?

Over the past weekend, we went to the Chicago Field museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. Ok, this is my idea of fun: a two year old, and a five year old, in a crowed dimly lit maze, trying desperately to A) figure out what I am looking at, B) trying to pay attention to the tiny little signs that explain what I am looking at, and C) trying to keep a two year old interested in something in a glass case that she cannot touch, while trying to find something else to do, including but not limited to flirting with other people, running around wild, and flopping on the floor in front of the one part of the exhibit where the most people are standing.

“Excuse me please, I need to retrieve the child you are about to step on.”

The exhibit contains some extraordinary castings of people who died, and were encased in lava during the eruption. The postures, emotions in their faces, are incredible. The Bear was enthralled by the castings. “Daddy – skeleton cwying” “Daddy, skeleton sleeping.”

My five year old, the Mouse, had a priceless comment towards the end of the exhibit. She did a fabulous job of being interested, behaving, and in general was a gem. Her comment? “Not another bunch of bracelets and rings.” Yes dear, this case shows the bracelet and rings of a slave. The previous one showed the bracelet and rings of a peasant. I think we made her day when after the Pompeii exhibit, we went to a dinosaur exhibit.

Later, after we got home, the Bear continued with the commentary. “I wuv buseum” “I wuv skeleton”

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The war on Christmas revisited.

OK, I have some strong feelings on this whole war on Christmas thing. Politics aside. I think it is time to really fight the war on Christmas. I want Christmas to go away, now, run, hide. Lock me in a tiny cell by myself away from all the rest of humanity, don't talk to me until Presidents' day.

You see, when I was a kid, Christmas was a magical time. It would start on Christmas eve morning with cleaning the house, dragging in the tree and decorating it. At supper time, my mom would cook something wonderfully interesting like crabmeat quiche. Then we would light all the candles in the house (I remember several hundred at least), light the fire in the fireplace, and sing carols and eat Christmas cookies, fruit cake, and drink hot apple cider. We would go to midnight service at church, where they ended at midnight with a candle lit singing of Silent Night.

Christmas morning we would get up, since there were five of s kids, we had to wait until we were all ready, before going downstairs to open presents. My mom would bring in Stollen, hot tea and other treats while we were opening presents. For Christmas dinner my mom would cook a complete turkey dinner, with plum pudding for desert. It really was magical.

Now, oh man, now, it is terrible. First let me say, I love my in-laws, they are wonderful people, they really are.

For Christmas now, we go to my in-laws house. This year there were 6 adults, and 5 kids, 4 of which were under age 5, in a three bedroom house. When we arrived the pestilence had already started. My nephew, typhoid Justin was getting over the stomach flu.

Christmas eve was awful. We went to a mass, which was perfectly timed for dinner time, that had to detail all 42 generations of the genealogy of Christ, and was about 45 minutes to long, great for kids under 5. Then I went to the house with my two kids, to put them to bed and baby-sit while the others went to friends house to eat dinner. Christmas morning started with 3 of the kids under 5 waking up at 5:00 am, and declaring at the top of their wee little voices that it was time to get up. For some reason, I was the lucky one to actually get out of bed, and try to find something to distract the little raiders while we waited for the other 5 adults to get out of bed, which they finally did at about 7:30.

After the present opening frenzy, where the oldest nephew, age 12, essentially was a lump on the floor, and the youngest was essentially a, well, lump on the floor, and the middle three were absolute nuts, we ate some store bought sweet bread.

Then the frenzy started about dinner. Get out of the way to small kitchen, and stay out. The twelve year old insisted on playing with his remote control helicopter – in the only room with a TV and the only place we could go. Later friends arrived for dinner, well, one arrived, the other was sick with a sinus infection. Dinner was a smoked turkey with prepackaged gravy and prepackaged mashed potatoes, with the green bean casserole covered with those fake fried onions from a can, and a store bought pecan pie for desert. Kids were way to over stimulated to nap, and the house was way to noisy to nap, so all the kids were just extra special that day.

My oldest wondered into my bedroom the evening after Christmas to let me know she had to throw up. That continued for the next two days. I got a chest cold the next day, my dear wife got the stomach thing the day after that. My oldest developed the chest cold the day after that, and ended up with an ear infection. My youngest decided not to be left out and determined the best way to participate was to get pink eye. All this, while staying in a 3 bedroom house with 6 adults, and 5 kids six hours away from my own bed. And of course, we all get along just so well.

So, let’s end Christmas now. End it before it really gets out of control.