Archive for December, 2009


December 24, 2009 5 comments

A few weeks ago I was giving my annual “Grinch gripe” to my wife. It’s a well rehearsed rant about the senseless, arbitrary materialism that has come to be associated with a religious holiday…and has nothing to do with my antisocial leanings or general dislike of shopping. You don’t believe me either, eh?

My wife, Janet, said that I could skip all the mid-winter consumerism if I went to Midnight Mass; being a Grinch and a backslider go hand in hand. I said it was a deal, yet I found myself spending more time in stores this month than I did during the eleven before. We’ll see if there’s a suit hanging in the bedroom when I get home from work….

Update: No Midnight Mass. My wife slipped, hit her head, and has a mild concussion. She’s fine, but we spent the first few hours of Christmas in triage. We’ll see what next year brings….

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Domesticated or civilized?

December 22, 2009 1 comment

Let me start by saying that I don’t know who said it first, but I once read that the difference between a civilized man and a domesticated man is that a civilized man has savage urges but controls them while the domesticated man doesn’t have those urges in the first place.

This old memory surfaced after buying gasoline the other night. At the station I was using, customers need to pay at an outside window. What happened involves a truck that pulled up to that window while I was pumping gas.

The man driving the truck bought some cigarettes and stepped back into his truck; he sat there with the door open. I noticed a sticker on the truck that said, “Got MILF?” I thought that sticker showed a total lack of class, but would rather not say how I know what MILF means.

The guy in the truck looked like a real looser and his female passenger looked dopey, strung-out and was dressed like a tramp. She jumped out of the truck and got into line as I was filling my tank; when I got into line, she was immediately in front of me.

I didn’t really care about them or what they were doing until the young woman started haggling with the cashier about how much cash they’d let her get from her debit card. I was getting a little impatient and I guess the fellow saw this and he gave me a funny look but turned away when we made eye contact.

For the most part I didn’t really care, but a very small part of me wanted him to ask me what I was looking at; whenever I’ve been asked this question I’ve answered with rude, brutal honesty. After being told no by the cashier for the third time, the young woman climbed back into the truck and they left.

Here’s what bothered me:

I don’t think it’s right, but there was a period in my life where I would have asked the woman, in front of her boyfriend, if she charged him by the hour or if she had a day rate just to relieve the monotony of waiting in line with a fight.

I thought that getting married and getting a little longer in the tooth had civilized me a bit, but the truth is that night, I only wanted them to leave so I could pay for my fuel and head home.

I guess I’ve actually become domesticated.

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A thought about a common expression.

December 19, 2009 Leave a comment

In some recent correspondence, the expression, “God never gives you anything you can’t handle,” came up and it made me wonder if that really was true. You see, we would only get testimony from the survivors.

What a warm, cheery thought!

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I wear a suit all the time…..a boiler suit!

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

What do you call a welder who is wearing a suit? The accused.

That joke sums up the stereotype, as far as wardrobe is concerned, but to be honest, I’m comfortable wearing a suit. I’d be even more comfortable if I lost 20 pounds.

This thought surfaced when I needed to go out tonight. Often, when I’m going out, my wife asks if I intend to go, “like that.” She’ll say something but I’m responsible for dressing myself; sadly, on many days this is very obvious. The thing is, I’m always doing something and I can’t risk ruining good clothes. Even if I weren’t going to do dirty work, the upholstery in both of my work trucks is off limits for good clothes.

When I need to keep clean, I sneak away with my wife’s car; a Plymouth Neon. You can laugh. The way I see things, driving a girly car is just proof that I have a girl.

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A good joke.

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m watching a Christmas movie and it reminded me of an old joke:

One of the great things about being a blacksmith is that you get to be naughty AND Santa brings you coal.

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My oddball apprenticeship.

December 11, 2009 2 comments

In industry, if you need to do welding when you’re away from the electrical supply, you make your own with an engine driven welder; I was not aware of this for my first few years in industry.

I worked in a large distribution centre’s maintenance department. Most of the repair work we did was mechanical, mainly on balers and conveyors, but when welding needed to be done we had an electric welder with about 50 feet of cable. This was enough to reach across our main machine room or out to a small yard where most of the work was performed.

What was different about our operation was that if we couldn’t bring the work to the welder or reach it with the cables, we used acetylene. This was before I set about becoming a professional welder and, until I first went to trade school, I just assumed that this was a common practice.

I’m really not sure why this was done, it was the least efficient way we could weld things, but that’s how we did it. When I started welding at home, I used acetylene because it’s what I was familiar with. Actually, I’m in a fairly small club: people under the age of 100 who’ve welded with a number nine torch tip. You have a puddle the size of a nickel that consumes filler rods at an alarming rate and the heat input is incredible…and if that torch backfires, it’s quite a spark show.

What made me think about all this was that I was doing some estimating for an aluminum repair job that’s outside in the weather and can’t be moved. When welding aluminum with any electric process you use a shielding gas to protect the weld in its molten, reactive state and even a slight breeze can make welding impossible. Instead of worrying about the weather, I just figured on torch brazing it; something most welders in my parts wouldn’t consider.

Let me say that I’m not an anachronist. There are situations, though limited, where torch brazing excels. For jobs like attaching carbide teeth to saws it’s an obvious choice but when doing small aluminum jobs in the field, unless the work specifically requires MIG or TIG work, I braze it with a torch. This way, aluminum repairs can be made in the wind and rain; it works well and is the best choice if there isn’t enough welding being done to make sheltering the work area worthwhile; just roll out the hoses and get to it.

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Thinking about the weather.

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s been a bit of a cold snap here but every cloud, so I’m told, has a silver lining. In this case, it’s that the small mud hole right in front of my shop bay door is frozen solid; now I don’t have to deal with it until the weather warms up.

For the purpose of supporting vehicles and equipment, it doesn’t take nearly as much cold to firm up muddy soil as it would to form ice of sufficient thickness to make a body of water passable. Even here on Canada’s riviera, also known as Vancouver Island, a little cold snap can pack enough punch to make a nasty, muddy worksite bearable.

Freezing mud isn’t always good. Aside from the issues of digging in it, a big potential problem is that tracked vehicles left on soft ground that freezes can get very badly stuck. It’s not so obvious as with wheeled vehicles. You would never leave a truck up to its hubs in mud if things were going to freeze, but with tracked vehicles a few inches will do it.

You can break something while trying to free the machine, or it simply won’t budge. Most dozers and excavators don’t have as much power as you might think; consider this along with all that track surface being glued to the ground and it’s not so urprising that this can happen. If the temperature is expected to drop and there’s no dry spot to park equipment, then you end up having to cut down a couple of trees to park the machines on top of; up out of the mud.

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