Beds Done!

09.5.2009 | 7:13 pm | General

All finished! The kids love ’em.



Building some bunk beds

07.13.2009 | 10:10 am | 1981 CB650, Bathroom Renovation, General, Goldwing, Led Zeppelin, Project bike

Our two grandsons are coming to stay with us for a while, so we thought we should get some bunk beds for them. After shopping around, we decided it would be easier and cheaper to make some. We found some plans online at:

Bunkbeds Unlimited

This is a bunk bed with a pull out trundle bed underneath.  Bunk Beds Unlimited offered a hardware package for sale, and it was cheaper and more convenient to just buy the hardware pack, so we ordered it along with the plans. That done, it was off to Home Depot for the lumber.

We needed about a dozen 2×6’s, some 2×2’s, and a few 2×4’s, so we picked through the pile, trying to find the straightest ones that were in the best shape. We took them home and got to work cutting them to size.

Once we got the basic frame pieces cut, I fired up the router and used a 1/2 inch rounding bit to round off the edges. The end pieces and a couple of the rails are done and ready to be stained.




We need to make another Home Depot run to buy the stain so we can match it to the dresser in the kid’s bedroom.

More to follow…

I built a Cigar Box Guitar

04.22.2009 | 6:44 pm | General

I built a guitar from a cigar box and some spare wood and parts. Here is what it ended up looking like:



Cigar Box Guitars

04.21.2009 | 10:06 am | General

The Blues is considered by most musicians to be the only truly American form of music. It traces it’s roots back over a hundred years ago to the slaves, working in the fields. They could not afford a factory built guitar, so they improvised with anything they could find. An old cigar box, a long piece of wood, and some string and they had an instrument.

Early blues artists like Lightning Hopkins and Muddy Waters started out using cigar box guitars, or CBG’s. CBG’s have a wonderful, swampy, bayou kind of sound that modern instruments just can’t duplicate.

There has been a resurgence of CBG builders and players, and there are several web sites dedicated to the building and playing of these truly American instruments. You can also find quite a few videos on YouTube. Check it out if you have time.

Shane Speal

Making a CBG

Cigar Box Nation

These are some CBGs made by members of CigarBoxNation.Com




Quantum of Solace

01.29.2009 | 4:29 pm | General

I finally got around to watching the latest Bond movie. What is a Quantum of Solace anyway? I still can’t quite get my head around that.

As Bond movies go, this one was the worst I have ever seen. It has nothing to do with Daniel Craig, but it has everything to do with the movie itself. There were just too many things that did not portray 007 in the manner that he should be portrayed.

Even though 007 was licensed to kill, he always did so reluctantly and never killed unnecessarily. In this movie, he was on a killing spree and M had to yell at him about it.

There was also an obvious lack of gadgets, which have been the hallmark of every Bond movie since day one. The fanciest thing he did was take pictures of people with his cell phone!!!

Duh!!! Even I can do that!!!

The only thing that seemed to remain intact was his martinis, shaken not stirred.

The chase scenes were WAYYYYY too long. I got up and went to the bathroom during the one where they ended up hanging upside down in the warehouse. Longer is not better, and they just dragged on, and I found myself wishing that those scenes would finally end, instead of wondering how they would turn out. Actually, this case, I knew how they would end up. Bond would kill the guy.

Overall, I was hugely disappointed. This is coming from a guy who had every Bond movie ever made on his iPod. I admit I am a traditionalist, but that notwithstanding, I thought Quantum of Solace was the worst Bond film ever.

My vacation from a few years ago

11.1.2008 | 9:50 pm | General

While not bike related, here is a little web thing I put together after my trip to England and Cypress in 2005.


The REAL story on tankless water heaters

07.13.2008 | 8:38 am | General

Several years ago, I had done some research on tankless water heaters as a way of reducing our electric bill, while at the same time having an endless supply of hot water. The theory is that the water heater only turns on when the hot water starts to flow, unlike a conventional tank that keeps turning the heating element on to retain the temperature level in the tank. You can also set the temperature so that the hot water is comfortable when using only hot water, with no cold water mixed in. That way you can avoid any scalding problems, and you don’t waste energy by heating the water up, then adding cold water to cool it back down again.

If you are contemplating getting a tankless water heater, here are the things you need to consider:

1. The temperature of the cold water that comes from the street will govern how powerful a unit you need to buy. In Florida, the cold water is most likely in the 75 degree range, while in Wisconsin, it may get down to the 50’s or lower. The unit needs to have enough power to bring the water up to the temperature you desire.

2. The flow switch will require a certain GPM rate in order to activate the heating elements. This means you can’t have a slow trickle of hot water coming from the tap. Most units seem to need between .2 and .5 GPM in order to trip the flow switch. Typically, you will be turning the hot water tap on full anyway, so this will probably not be an issue. However, there is a caveat. Most showers have a mixing valve, and when you want to make the water temperature colder, it actually adds cold water AND reduces the amount of hot water that is used. In your attempts to get the most comfortable temperature, you may end up reducing the hot water flow too much. This will cause the GPM rate to fall below the threshold, and turn off the heater. The next thing you know, you are taking a cold shower!

3. You will need to decide if you want a whole house unit, or a point of use unit. Using the point of use units is more involved and requires additional expense and installation, but provides redundancy in the event that one of them fails. If you have 2 bathrooms in your home, and the whole house unit fails, you will have no hot water anywhere. If you use point of use units, and one of them fails, you can still take a shower in the other bathroom. With a sink, it is not too tricky to put a small unit under the sink somewhere. When it comes to the bathroom, the location of the unit becomes more difficult, and may require additional plumbing that you hadn’t planned on. 

After doing some internet research, I chose a unit from SETS in Miami Florida, and picked the whole house unit, which cost roughly $750 USD. I had an electrician run the 220v lines (two required), and I did the plumbing myself, since I am pretty handy with solder and a torch. The unit looks similar to this one, and mounts flat on the wall.

After the intial tweaking, I got the system to work fairly well and was pretty satisfied with the way it performed. Then, about 2 years later,  I had a problem.

I noticed some drips coming from the bottom of the case, and the temperature of the hot water began to be inconsistent. I opened the case up and found that the internal copper pipes had sprung a leak. Here is where things get really ugly.

I called SETS to arrange to have it fixed since it was still under warranty. Over the period of 5 days or so, I made repeated calls to them, trying to find a technician who could authorize me to get the unit fixed. The guy who answered the phone kept telling me they were busy, and that he had been giving them the messages for me. Finally, I got hold of a tech, and after I described what was wrong, he told me I needed a new unit, which I already knew!! Needless to say, my frustration level was maxed out by now.

The problem was that they don’t make house calls, and their warranty policy is that I uninstall the unit, I pack it up and pay for the shipping to them, I pay for the shipping to have the unit sent back to me, I reinstall the unit when I receive it, and I live without hot water during the entire process, which is already 5 days long! Needless to say, this did not sit well with me, and I decided to skip the whole tankless water heater thing and go back to a conventional heater. I went to Lowes, bought one, and put it in.

The theory of a tankless water heater is a wonderful one, and it does save on electricity. When it works correctly, it is great. However, I cannot in good faith recommend SETS based on my experience with them. I suggest that anyone who is considering getting a tankless water heater do their homework and make sure they know exactly what the manufacturer’s warranty consists of before they buy it.

If I were to do it again, I would go with point of use heaters so that I have hot water in the event of a failure of one of the units. 

My thoughts on personal risk management

11.14.2007 | 8:12 pm | General

Almost everything that a person does in life involves a certain degree of risk to their personal safety. And, every person evaluates these risks and determines those activities that they feel are safe, and those that they feel are not. Usually, a person will conduct their evaluation based on their own “formula” which takes into account various factors which they think impacts that risk factor. For example, if you ask anyone if they wear a seat belt while driving their car, you will get a variety of answers. Seldom, however, can a person give you any factual or statistical data to back up their decision. They will often arrive at their decision by using their formula and plugging in data that is known only to them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of sports, or Xtreme sports. This includes racing, skydiving, bungee jumping and the like.

Motorcycle riding, whether for sport purposes such as motocross or racing, or for transportation purposes, is generally accepted as being more dangerous than walking or driving a car. People will usually base this decision on the fact that a bike offers the rider significantly less protection from injury, whether caused by the rider themselves, or by other vehicular traffic that may impact the bike and the rider. Very few people will argue this fact. What is interesting is that some people will modify the risks associated with riding a motorcycle by other outside factors that seem to make sense only to themselves.

I had a discussion with a co-worker about this very subject. He said he might consider buying a bike and riding it back and forth to work, but he felt he lived too far away. What he meant was that he felt that the time he would spend on the bike each day would elevate the risk factors, and he was not comfortable riding it that distance each day. So, I asked him:

Me: “How far do you live from work?”

Him: “20 miles.”

Me: “What if you lived 17 miles from work, would you ride a bike then?”

Him: “No.”

Me: “What if you lived 14 miles from work, would you ride a bike then?”

Him: hesitating, “No.”

Me: “What about 12 miles?”

Him: “Ummm…”

Me: “What about 10 miles?”

Him: “Yea, probably.”

So, what does his personal formula contain that makes him arrive at that decision? Why does he think that 10 miles is OK, but 20 miles is not? I would agree that the more time you spend doing ANY “dangerous” activity increases the odds that something will happen to you. What I don’t understand is how an individual processes this risk formula and comes up with their Go/No Go decision.

It would appear that logic plays less of a part in this process, and emotion and feeling plays a much larger part. The old saying, “don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up” truly applies here.

Once an individual arrives at their decision about how risky an activity is, they will then begin the process of comparing the risk to the enjoyment of that activity. A skydiver may decide that the exhilarating feeling of jumping out of an airplane is worth the amount of risk their formula has determined. A motorcycle rider may feel that the joy of riding, the wind in their face, and the esthetics of swooping through a series of twisting turns are worth the chance of being killed by a person in a 4 wheeled vehicle. Again, their risk assessment is most likely based on their vague, ambiguous, and unexplainable formula.

Some people will carry this process to the extreme. I sat next to a woman on an airplane once who told me that she never wears any nylon clothing or rubber tennis shoes on a plane because, if the plane crashes and catches on fire, she does not want her clothing to melt and burn her. In my mind, if that happens, all the cloth and leather apparel in the world is not going to save you.

There have been millions of conversations over the years about motorcycle riding and protective clothing. Many of these discussions have become very heated, and there is no shortage of opinions on the matter. I don’t think there are many people, including those who are opposed to wearing protective gear, who will not agree that wearing a helmet and protective clothing affords significant protection to a rider in the event of a spill.

Most of these discussions usually revolve around mandated helmet use, or the inconvenience or discomfort of wearing protective clothing. “It’s too hot during the summer. I don’t have a place to store it once I arrive at my destination.” The arguments are many and varied. The riders who don’t want to wear a helmet or protective gear are willing to accept the increased risk associated with riding while not wearing gear.

Where these discussions become testy is when people attempt to convince others that their own view on the topic is correct. Riders who gear-up are not going to convince those who choose to “ride free”; no matter how much they try. The opposite is true as well.

Then, there are those who abruptly decide to quit riding and sell their motorcycle because a family member or friend has been injured or killed in a bike related accident. Their reasoning may be that the dangers of riding have finally hit home, and they now realize just how dangerous it really is. Or, they may decide that they don’t want to put their loved ones through the same grief that the other family has had to endure. Regardless of what their decision is based on, they have made a subjective decision to stop riding, and it is unlikely that anyone will convince them to change their minds.

Ultimately, what this all boils down to is this: People are going to make their risk management decisions based on factors that are often only understandable by them. They will ride or not ride, wear gear or not. If they suffer serious injuries or death as a result of their actions, then that was their choice. All the forum posts or water cooler discussions will not change that.

Really entertaining reading

09.8.2007 | 11:27 pm | General

I stumbled across BustedUpCowgirl.Com, which is a site featuring the efforts of some people to fight back and really mess with Internet scammers. This particular woman is in the horse business, but these Nigerian scams are frequently used for online motorcycle or automobile advertisements.

Click on the link in the Blogroll list on the right hand side of the page.

Have a look, I think you will get a kick out of it!

Sunday morning ride

09.5.2007 | 7:20 pm | General

Here is a little video I put together from my home made camera mount and my cheapo Canon digital camera.

Click me

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