Sunday, June 17, 2018

Parade Swag

The Johnston Green Days Parade was held on Saturday morning.

The parade participants throw a lot stuff at you. Don't worry; it's all good stuff.

Like her mother did when she was young, Charlotte wanted to organize all of her loot by category.

Five Popsicles, three balls, two hot dogs, two beaded necklaces, two Rice Krispy treats, a lemonade, a bag of chips, a bottle of water, a Frisbee, a chalkboard art kit, and almost as much candy as you get on Halloween.

We and Charlotte's dentist thank you, city of Johnston!

Saturday, June 16, 2018


The world's strongest girl was spotted moving boulders at Menards.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Family Visit

Daphne's grandpa passed away last September. We went to his funeral in Ottumwa, Iowa, but we hadn't been back to see his headstone at the cemetery. We didn't have any plans yesterday, so we took a car trip. We listened to Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race on CD along the way. 

We usually head straight to Grandpa Howard's house when we get to town. It felt strange to not have that priority. His house is sold, and the new "Beware of Dog" sign in its front window punctuates the fact that Howard really is gone. 

It wasn't a day to mourn, though. We told family stories that made us laugh, and we did a couple of Howard's favorite things. Our first stop was to at the Canteen Lunch. We have had lunch there before with Daphne's grandparents, Howard and Patty, and Daphne's mom, Deb.

The first Canteen Lunch opened in 1927, and it moved to this location in 1936 (according to Wikipedia).

In 2000, the city wanted to build a parking ramp in the Canteen's place, but protest against moving the Canteen was so strong that the city built a parking ramp above the Canteen by buying the rights to the air above the building. Sometimes tradition triumps over progress, and that makes me happy.

Here's the back of the tiny Canteen.  You can see how it fits under the ramp.

 Here's the front.

A Canteen employee spotted me taking the above picture, and she offered to take a picture of all three of us. 

The Des Moines Register reported in 2013 that, "New York Magazine’s online food page “Grub Street New York” put the Canteen’s loose-meat sandwiches on their list,“50 State Dinners, 2012: Food Pilgrimages You Must Make This Summer.” 

You don't stay in business for 82 years if you don't know what you are doing. These sandwiches are totally worth the trip. 

There are 16 stools that surround the horseshoe shaped counter. We got there about 11:15, so we didn't have to wait. But we would have waited if we had to.

I think the steaming process is what sets these sandwiches apart. The steamer sits in the middle of the room, and you can watch the ladies prepare the loose meat. 

I also got a sandwich to go and a window sticker for the RAV.

We headed to the cemetery after lunch. Daphne's grandma and mother's remains were cremated. Patty and Deb's ashes were interred along with Howard's body.

All three Cudworths enjoyed gardening. Daph picked up the rules and regulations about what you can and cannot plant at the cemetery's main office. She'll come back in the fall and plant some bulbs for next year. One of Howard's favorite jokes was to ask you, "Would you be offended by seeing some naked ladies?" He would then take you to his garden and show you the flowers he called "Naked Ladies". Daphne says that Grandpa would think it would be funny if she planed some of those for him.

Howard would always tell us about the new book he was reading when we visited. He loved nonfiction, and the librarians would pick out books for him to read. The man personified the phrase "life long learner".

Charlotte surprised me by asking if we could go to the Ottumwa Public Library instead of the park we usually play at. I suppose she was inspired by the audio book we were listening to in the car. After thinking about it, a library visit made perfect sense.

Daphne lived in Ottumwa until she was ten. This was her first public library.

Following Daphne's lead, we headed downstairs to the children's department.

During the drive down, Charlotte mentioned that she has read every book in the Babymouse series except book #1. She found #1 and promptly sat down to read it. I believe that Grandpa Howard approves. 

Babymouse graphic novel takes Char about 20 minutes to read, so Daphne and I explored the library for a bit. Daphne found this shelf of books. She knows that some of these mystery books are the same ones she checked out back in the 80's. 

Char had time to make me a Father's Day gift, but that's a picture for later.

We stopped at Pella on the way home. Daphne and Char love the bakeries, and I love the meat shops. Howard always enjoyed the tins of cookies that Daphne brought him. This stop seemed appropriate, too.

Five years ago we had J&M Displays launch much of Daphne's mother's remains in a funeral shell at the National Balloon Classic in Indianola. That was per Deb's wishes. 

I passed a semi truck with this logo on the door while driving back to Des Moines.

It felt like someone had sent us a note of approval. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

On a Rainy Sunday

Lunch was at the Hessen Haus. Daphne and I ordered Rouladen Rolls and a peasant plate to share. Char ordered mac and cheese and cottage cheese from the children's menu. Char ate most of the peasant plate, and Daphne and I ate most of the mac and cheese. That's teamwork.

The Hessen Haus is Des Moines' version of an old-world German bier hall.

The Hessen Haus is also located near the Science Center of Iowa which is where we went next. The Science Center was lacking a new exhibit, but they did have a cardboard "city" for kids to explore.

These plastic screws were used to connect the cardboard boxes. I think they are a really cool idea.

We also experimented with cutting out coffee filter designs to see what shape flew the highest.

Dominos are always a good time.

So are rainy Sundays.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Summer '18: part 1

"What do you do all summer? That has to be the question that most teachers get asked.

Well, sometimes we hang out at the zoo.

There's a cool park in Altoona. (Char is at the top of the slide.)

Charlotte took a drama class, and the students performed a mad-libbed version of the Three Little Pigs as a "graduation".

It was Char's idea to have a house made of Peeps.

Charlotte is done with piano lessons for this year, so Daphne picked out some music for the two of them to practice together.

On a whim, I bought this mosaic kit at Goodwill. I thought it might be a fun family project.

I mixed the concrete; the girls did the glass arrangement. 

Cement flip flops!

For the first time in forever, we solved the "Drive Ya Nuts" puzzle. This thing has haunted me for years. Take that, "Drive Ya Nuts"!

Char led us on a trail walk behind the Urbandale library.

While Char was at drama camp, I shopped thrift stores. There was a time when I would buy a shirt as horrible as this and wear it because I thought it was funny. There was also a time when I was hopelessly single. I believe the two are connected.

I did not buy this shirt.

The shirt is funny, though.

Maybe I should have bought it...

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Thank You, Karen Acres!

Today is Charlotte's last day as a second grader. This is the sign that greets you when you enter the school's vestibule

Char likes to read this sign out loud when I drop her off in the morning. More than once she has turned to me and said with sincerity, "I love this school."

As teachers, Daphne and I know how hard everyone at Karen Acres Elementary School must work for the students to feel that way.

We send our thanks to the entire staff. Charlotte had a great year because of you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sticky Situations: Criterium '75 Pinball Updates

Update 5:

I bought one of these A-9740 coils from eBay to replace the Criterium's 9500 coil.

I was disappointed that the A-9740 was a bit shorter than the 9.500 coil. I tried installing the coil with a washer to make up for the length, but that made the coil buzz like no other. The coil works without the washer, so that's a relief.

All three star switches now light their corresponding eject hole.

When all three are lit, then two "special when lit" lights like this light up. I haven't seen that before, so that's neat.

I have to get Daphne's help to connect the colored wires to correctly win free games, but I'm ready when she is.

One of the last problems to solve is why the Criterium will not play a two-player game. I can play one, three, and four player games, but the machine skips player two. I have a hunch the problem is in the player unit. I did some soldering in there last year before I knew how to correctly solder...

Update 4:

I'm getting close. I can see this project's light at the end of the tunnel. Too bad I can't see the light under the left kicker hole.

I'll try to explain. The three star roll over switches at the top of the playfield do two things when they are activated - they score points and they light a corresponding kicker hole.

The left star switch scores a point when activated, but the left kicker hole does not light up.

That's not a big deal, but I want to fix it if I can. After staring at the schematic for awhile, I could see where I should look.

The left hole is illuminated by relay E, and that relay in underneath the playfield.

According to contacts column, relay E has 4 normally open switches (A) and 3 make/break switches (C).

This part of the schematic indicates that an normally open switch on relay E lights the bulb under the left hole. It's on the upper left of this picture. If you look at the right side of the picture you can see that a normally open switch on relay E also helps to light the left and right "Special" bulbs. No wonder they have never come on.

I cleaned all of the switches on the E relay, but that didn't help. Bummer. I manually pressed in the relay with the machine on and the left star switch activated. The left hole light and both "Special" lights came on. Since the lights worked when the contacts were manually activated, I checked relay E's coil with a multi-meter. The coil was dead. It couldn't activate the relay's switches.

Here's the dead coil. This side looks pretty good.

The other side - not as much. The coil's wire has been broken.

I tried unwinding the coil wire one turn and soldering to the wire in the proper place, but the coil is too corroded to work. You can see the corrosion when the paper label is removed.

I need a new coil. My problem is that no one sells a replacement for a coil marked 9500. I tried Pinball Resource, but I was denined. Marco doesn't sell one, either. I found one 9500 coil in Canada, but the seller didn't reply to my email.

Luckily, Mark G on Pinside had an idea for me. My Criterium was made by a Spanish company called Recel. Recel imported Gottlieb pinball machines from America, and then started making their own machines based on Gottlieb parts. Some parts are interchangable between the two companies, others are not. Mark compared the two companies' parts catalogs, and he might have found a match for my 9500 coil.

Recel's vari target uses the 9500 coil. Gottlieb's vari-target uses A-9740. The two diagrams look identitical. Maybe the coils are too? That would be great because Gottlieb coils are much easier to find.

I ordered a A-9740 coil from eBay yesterday, and I'm waiting for it to arrive. Recel used quite a few 9500 coils in my machine, and it would be nice to know I can replace them if I need to.

Update 3:

I have no clue what the conditions were where the previous owner stored this machine. I do know that the backbox didn't have a door covering its back, and a lot of the light sockets are rusty. Thankfully, most of the sockets will work again if I solder the power wire directly onto the tip of the socket.

That's what I've done with these two.

Rather than reroute the daisy chain power wire, I soldered a jumper wire to the socket's tip.

That fix doesn't work all the time. Sometimes you need to install a new socket. 

The old socket on the right is toast. It is rusty and the barrel of the socket spins freely. I took a new socket like the one on the left and bent its tabs to match the old socket. I cut off the extra length of tab and drilled a new hole in what was left.

The new socket is installed and soldered.

This is the first time this I've seen this bulb consistently lit.

By the end of the evening, I had all of the lights in the backbox working except one. The light sockets that are dark (player count, ball count, and 9 out of 10 match numbers) are supposed to be out when the game is not in operation.

Can you spot the one bulb that isn't working?

It's the light above the 100s reel on the bottom row. I blew a fuse every time I tried to solder it in place. I had to stop messing with it when I was down to my last 9 amp fuse. A package of fuses from Amazon should arrive soon.

While I am waiting for those fuses, I decided to do a modification. I'm excited that the lights are working, but they look a little stagnant. I thought some flashing bulbs behind the game's title might look cool.

The shape of flashing bulbs is different from regular bulbs. The flashing bulb is on the left.
Note: the machine does not make the bulb flash. The bulb does that on its own.

The round shape requires a hole that is countersunk. I bought a set of three countersink drill bits from Harbor Freight. 

I'm working on the light hole second from the left on the top row. I have already worked on the three holes on the right.


Done. One more to go.

I like this mod because it is reversible. Well, I can't put the wood back, but I can still use the standard bulbs if I want.

Here are two short videos - one without the backglass, and one with the backglass.

The flashing bulbs aren't as dramatic as I thought they would be, but I do like this look better. 

Also, the bottom bulb that doesn't work isn't very noticeable with the backglass in place. I might let that slide for awhile. I have more lights to work on under the playfield.

Update 2:
My work isn't done, but I put the Criterium '75 together last weekend. I can't solder new connections if I can't tell what lights won't light up.

I was surprised when I stepped back and looked at it. The Criterium actually looks like a pinball machine! I know that sounds dumb, but I haven't had either the backglass or the playfield glass installed before, so I forgot what it could look like. This definitely gives me the momentum to keep at it.

Oh, and it plays like a pinball machine, too. I'll update this post with a video at some point, but I need to put my soldering iron to work first.

Update 1:
The Criterium '75 sat unaddressed all fall and winter. Since I sold the Palooka last month, I decided to use the extra room in the basement for the Criterium. It was time to get to work again.

I've spent about two hours each night using the flour/ rubbing alcohol method, and after two weeks I can celebrate that I have removed almost all traces of the adhesive.

It was so tedious. Sometimes two inches of glue took an hour to remove. The process also removed more of the original artwork than I had hoped... but look at that shine after waxing!

The ball used to bump around haltingly, but now it rolls freely down the playfield. I think this might be a fun machine to play.

After a winter in the garage, all the switches need to be cleaned again, and I need to resolder many of the light sockets, but that's just standard EM work. Removing all the glue from the playfield was the biggest hurdle on this project.

More updates to come.

May 2017:

There's still a lot left to do, but after being dormant for 37 years, the Criterium 75 is alive.

Here's a link to see it in "action": Criterium '75 start-up

December 2016:
I have no idea how a pinball machine from Europe ended up in Cascade, Iowa, and I will probably never know. The previous owner was a gentleman in his 80's, and his son-in-law was the person who handled the deal through eBay and email.

I was told the machine was in the owner's basement. I brought along a dolly and some straps, but the pin was waiting for me in the seller’s snow-covered driveway. Also waiting in the driveway were six family members - sons and grandsons, I presume. Inside the house, others were peeking through windows. It was uncomfortable having all those people staring at me, so I didn’t spend much time looking at the Criterium. 

I tried asking Grandpa some questions about the Criterium, but he snarled, "What you see is what you get!" What I got was a sense that he was angry at me for buying his pinball machine. I had already agreed to buy the machine for $50, so I handed him the money. With some help from the teenagers, I began loading it into the car. Grandma opened the door to the house to yell, "Make him move that heavy piece! That's the dangerous part!" The young guys helped me, anyway. Grandma sneered at them. Grandpa left to get the mail.

I thanked everyone for their hospitality and walked towards my car. Before I climbed in, Grandpa returned and looked me in the eye, "If you get it running, send a video to him." He pointed at his son-in-law with his thumb, and then curtly walked away. I replied to his back, "I will." 

Buyer's remorse sunk in at the first rest stop. The backglass was in great shape, but to say that the playfield’s top mylar layer had delaminated was an understatement. The plastic had warped over roll-over switches and entire light bulbs! As it sat, the playfield was useless. I did not take any pictures of the machine at that time, I was too bummed. 

Here is an example of how badly the plastic had lifted off the playing surface. You can see that it had covered that lightbulb in the middle of the picture. How is a pinball going to roll on that?

I have read about people using a freeze spray to get old mylar off playfields, so I kept the Criterium’s bottom cabinet in the garage, and on a cold, January night I was able to take advantage of the low temperature and break/ tear/ rip the warped plastic off the playfield. It was so brittle. I lost about 15% of the artwork, but I can live with that. Kids, they call these "player's machines."

I was able to get the Criterium to come alive, and that is a testament to the people who designed

I found this advice online:
"After you get the Mylar off, pat down the residue glue with white baking flour. Really press it into the glue, and let it sit a few minutes. Next, wet the flour with 91% or higher isopropyl alcohol, and allow it to sit until most of the alcohol has evaporated. Starting at the edge rub all the glue into little crumbs
Who discovered that you can remove glue with baking flour and alcohol? It amazes me what people come up with. I can tell you that this idea works, but it is really slow going. 
I sprinkle the flour over a patch of adhesive that is the size of a quarter. After a minute, I pour some alcohol from a spoon over the flour, and I wait for 5 - 7 minutes. I then scrape off the mess with a plastic razor blade.  I have to do this three or four more times to get the paint completely free of the glue. 
This isn't hard work, but it does get tedious. I quit after an hour or so. I then "wax" the spot with Novus 2, and I play the machine for awhile. The ball moves through the newly cleaned area much better, and it is cool to see how that changes gameplay. That helps me stay excited about this project.

Once the glue is gone, I still have paint to touch up, game glitches to fix, and about 20 light bulbs that won't come on. It's a good thing that my time is free.
I hope to be able to call the son-in-law sometime in June and tell him there's a video of Grandpa's pinball machine on my blog. That would be pretty cool.

PS: Charlotte, a $50 machine is never a $50 machine. So far, I've spent $173.36 $194.39 on a sticky mess.