Monday, September 26, 2016

I Get That

Spotted on the drive to school today.

Well, at least I was once cool in my own mind.

Now I can't even fool myself.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Breaker, Breaker

Charlotte tested for her orange karate belt last week. We were given a list of hand positions, stances, and kicks that she would have to be able to perform, and we had a list of five tenets to memorize: courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit.

At the end of the testing time, each student was required to walk to the front of the class and break a board with either their hand or their foot. We didn't see that coming. Charlotte hasn't tried breaking a board before, and I could see she was nervous. Heck, I was nervous, but Daphne was positive that Charlotte could do it.

Char bravely took her position.


Atta Girl!

We had her sign and date the wood so she can remember the first time she kicked a board into pieces.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Homecoming '16: J-Hawk Spirit Day!

A retired cross country jersey and some J-Hawk tattoos make for a pretty good spirit outfit.

Nice job with the theme colored hair ties, Mom.

Char says, "Go J-Hawks! Argh!"

I have no idea why we ended on a pirate note, but that's kids for ya.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I Don't Think the Van Got Smaller

This is the second year that I've taken Charlotte to the "Henry Gregor Felsen Tribute Car Show." Here she is in 2015.

Here she is today.

People think hot rods go fast? They've got nothing on little girls.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Small Inheritance

The last time I visited her, my grandma made me an offer I couldn't refuse, "Brent, after the break-in there really isn't anything at the farm that's worth any money. If there's something you want, go ahead and take it. No one will care."

The break-in Grandma was referring to happened a couple of years ago. Someone kicked in the front door of her farmhouse and stole whatever they could get their hands on. Because Grandma now lives 200 miles south in Moravia where family can take care of her, the thief had a lot of time. The corn crib and the barn were also raided. So, as Grandma said, there's not much left... for most people.

The crib is on the left, and the barn is on the right. I took this photo two years ago, and since then Grandma has had the crib repaired and repainted. She makes sure her property stays in good shape.

I wasn't interested in anything in Grandma's house. She and my aunt still make overnight visits to the farm when their schedules allow, and everything in the house is necessary.

My old car is stored in the barn, but like the rest of the buildings, it's full of spiders, grime, and mice droppings. The Mustang is also full of broken promises. Both my dad and I said we'd get the car running someday, but neither of us is going to do that. It's time to sell; the car looks so sad.

I was only interested in what was in the corn crib.

Grandpa Glen built a walled inclosure inside the crib so he would have a work space that he could heat in the winter. I spend quite a bit of time in that small area when I was a kid. I loved messing around with Grandpa's tools. One summer I spent a week trying to repair a rusted lump of a bike that I found in Grandpa's trash. I didn't fix the bike, but I learned a lot during my time in his workshop.

Except for the break-in, the shop in the crib has been untouched since Grandpa died in '89. As you'd expect, it's really dirty, and the area is alive with insects and unseen mice. That's a little creepy. I didn't take the camera with me because as soon as you touch something your hands are filthy. This picture (from a previous post) of Grandpa's bench grinder is the only picture I have of the inside the crib.

That old bench grinder is the one thing I really wanted to take home. My grandpa, my dad, and I have all used that grinder, and that is a bit of family history that I want to preserve. It was a struggle to remove the rusted bolts attached to that rusted step stool, but my efforts paid off. The motor fired right up when I plugged it in. I'm going to clean the components and install polishing wheels. I'm stoked to have this in my garage.

The only other thing that I wanted to find was a Phillips head screwdriver. Some of my older Philips screwdrivers have become stripped. Unfortunately, the thief took gramps' tool box. Thieves are heartless.

I did root around for some other gems, and I'll show you what I found.

This Montgomery Ward Powr Kraft storage unit was rusted and green. I soaked the plastic drawers in a bucket filled with water and Dawn soap overnight.  In the morning I was surprised to see that the plastic was actually clear. The drawers were that dirty. I'm colorblind, and I didn't feel like trying to find the correct match for the original green paint. I sprayed it a glossy red instead, and the color looks okay to me. I'm using this unit to organize my small pinball parts.

This Albert Lea Bottling Works bottle was probably filled with root beer at some point. But the inside was almost black when I found it. A night soaking with the plastic drawers helped a lot, and so did scrubbing the inside with an old toothbrush soaked in Dawn. I also ran the bottle through the dishwasher a few times. I don't know how I'll use this, but the thick, heavy glass sure feels comfortable in your hand.

I have no idea how this Yankee voltmeter works, but it looks cool and feels like you're holding an ancient pocket watch. I'm a sucker for shiny metal.

This long level is going to come in handy when I make sure my pinball playfields are even.

Why did I take a heavy pipe with one end welded shut? Well, if I ever need to pound a fence post into the earth, I'll be ready.

Grandpa had two of these mirrors hanging on the wall near the door of the workshop. I like to think that he'd check his reflection to make sure he looked okay before walking down the hill to have dinner with Grandma. That's probably just the romantic in me, but I hung one of the mirrors in the garage near our door so I could make sure I'd be ready for a meal with my girls. 

I found four stamps in an old peanut butter jar.

I like how the jar can be reused as a measuring cup once the peanut butter is gone.

These three stamps are neat.

Grandpa was a dairy farmer, and these stamps were meant for record keeping, but I still think the fourth stamp has an element of whimsy.

 I  might use it as a "good job" stamp on the papers I grade at school.

Well, that's when I stopped digging. I didn't want to be greedy. I packed the car with my treasures, and I doubled checked that I had put everything in the crib back in its proper place. I stepped back into the shop for one last look and felt something underfoot.

I had stepped on a Philips screwdriver! Ha ha! That thief didn't get this one. Or if he did, he threw it on the ground. It was pretty rusty. But a night in a bath of Evaporust and a little time on my bench grinder cleaned this screwdriver right up.

The Professional has become my go-to screwdriver when I'm working in the garage. It's like Grandpa wanted me to have it.

A grinder, an organizer, a voltmeter, a level, a length of pipe, two mirrors, one jar, four stamps, and a screwdriver surprise. It's probably not much of a haul to the guy that stole from my Grandma, but I brought home a carload of family history, and I felt like a rich man when I pulled into the driveway.

So screw him.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sometimes It Takes Time

I get a big kick out of repurposing stuff. I'm not a hoarder, but I'll hang onto an item that I think it is cool even if I don't know how I'll use it.

For instance, I went on a trip to Las Vegas with my parents in 1992, and one night we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Those are nice Michael Jackson dolls.

(This kid doesn't know it yet, but in less than a month he'll be hired to teach at Urbandale High School. He's never even heard of Urbandale.)

I brought back a Hard Rock beer bottle as a souvenir.

I didn't know what to do with this bottle, and it has been taking up shelf space ever since. An idea finally hit me last week. I ran the bottle through dishwasher cycle, filled it with extra virgin olive oil, and then topped it off with a generic spout. I don't know if it was worth the effort to keep this bottle for 24 years, but I think my new oil dispenser looks sweet. I use EVOO a lot when I grill.

Here's another example. I found these vintage McDonald's cup holders at a garage sale for ten cents. They reminded me of my childhood, and I thought I could use them in my VW Bug.

These were really handy in the 70's and 80's when cars didn't have many cupholders. But I was wrong; the VW's doors aren't wide enough for these holders. The drink would splash all over.

Using a holder like this in my Toyota is unnecessary. The interior already has eight cup holders. Even Char's booster seat has a place for a bottle of Gatorade. Plus, they look awkward in the car.

So, did I throw these holders into the recycling bin? No, but three years had to pass before I could find a use for them.

I was testing my pinball project in the garage last night, and I didn't have a handy place for my water bottle. I briefly considered attaching a bicycle bottle cage to the cabinet, but then I spotted the Mickey Dee's cup holders. All I had to do was cut off some of the plastic and drill a hole.

That's totally worth a dime. I'm glad I didn't toss 'em out.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

It is Embarrassing to Admit

I've got a box of VHS tapes in my classroom's closet. Since the average lifespan of a VHS tape is between 8-12 years, I've been transferring the better programs to digital media. It may be hard to believe, but some of these shows aren't on YouTube or Netflix, and I want to preserve them before the tape breaks or the image degrades into snowy static. For instance, the AFI Top 100 programs aren't available on any recorded format. They were only broadcast on network TV.

Most of the programs on these VHS tapes were recorded at home, and I've noticed a trend while checking their labels.

Before we had a DVR, VHS tapes were the only way for us to record our programs.  AMC ran their movies commercial free back then, and I'd often spot an old horror movie in the TV guide that I wanted to see uncut, but it was on too late at night. I'd remember to set the VCR to record, but I'd usually forget to check what tape was in the machine.

I don't know how many times Daphne would curl up on the couch expecting to spend some time with the cast of Friends only to be greeted by some guy in a mask with a bloody knife when she pressed "play." I'd hear a wail of disappointment drifting from the TV room, " Oh, Nooooo!" And I knew I was in trouble.

You'd think I'd learn, but...

"Oh, Nooooo!" (I don't think she was the one who recorded a history of Nintendo's greatest creation.)

This time I was the one who wrote, "DAPHNE'S T.V. TAPE!" on the label.

And I still recorded over it.

"Brent? What is this?"

"But Man Vs. Food is in Des Moines this time...

With her mouth tightened, Daphne fast forwarded the tape so she can watch last night's episode of ER.

"Brent! Again?!?"

"... I thought you wanted to watch Craft in the United States..." 

(Brent hangs his head and sighs.) "I'm sorry... again."

Every so often I have to admit that my wife has put up with a lot from me.