Category Archives: Sustainable Future

Still looking for my voice…

After nearly a decade you would think I’d have found my voice for this blog. Having changed the focus so many times doesn’t help much I suppose. Personal blog, business blog, aviation focus, woodworking focus, I mean, really… how many times have I twisted this thing into something I needed/wanted at the moment? I’ve lost count.

I don’t know if I will ever know what my blog voice is. I do know, I need to write more frequently if I ever want to find that voice. March 28th, 2018 is marked down on the calendar as my 10th Blogaversary. The family and I have a lot of big changes in our lives taking place between now and March. I am hopeful that I will at least have a whisper if not a voice by then.

Big changes? First and foremost, we are moving. Not just across town, to another state. I say this because I have always lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. 50 years and the only time I wasn’t living in the area was a six month period I lived and worked on a job-site in Stockton, less than two hours from here. In fact, the family and I have been living in the same apartment for over 21 years.

Beginning July 1st, we will be in transition to our new-to-us house in Klamath Falls, Oregon. New town, new state, new house, new jobs; big changes. I haven’t lived in a house in 40 years, Tammy hasn’t lived in a house in almost 30. I am very excited about these changes. We want to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle and getting out of the multi-million populated urban sprawl and moving to a city of fewer than thirty-thousand people is a great start. We will be looking for our forever-homestead after we get up to KF and have had a chance to get to know the area.

Another change for us is the earnest desire to get outdoors and go do things. Sightsee, hike, canoe, just get out in nature, which will be interesting since none of us have lived in an area it snows, or rains a lot. It will take some time to acclimate to the area and its weather.

So you can see, there will be a lot of subject matter potential for the blog and writing in general. I am not making any commitments right now, but I would like to see myself post at least 500 words at least once a week. That seems like a reasonable goal. I am also looking forward to more interesting photographic subject matter to be included in the posts.

Along with all of the changes in lifestyle and location, we are hoping to make a few changes internally. With all of the out-and-about, we will be working on getting more physically fit, and tuning into the new, smaller, less frantic world around us. One of the reasons I don’t go out much anymore is the crush of people everywhere we go. I have to tune out so much background noise just to get from point A to point B. When you think about it, it’s easy to see why people seem to have lost their sense of self-preservation. They tune out so much around themselves, they just don’t see or hear it coming.

When you think about it, it’s easy to see why people in urban areas seem to have lost their sense of self-preservation. They tune out so much around themselves, they just don’t see or hear it coming. The density of it all accelerates the environments natural selection, adaptations, and migrations. An interesting idea for a sociology hypothesis… later.

My only regular outing is going to Volunteer Examiner sessions for Amateur Radio license exams on the first and third Saturday of the month. On more than a few occasions, I have not left the property we manage between VE sessions. If I don’t need something or have been asked to help someone, I would rather just stay on-site. My current density adaptation is to isolate/insulate when possible.

Not healthy, physically or otherwise. Socializing has followed the same lines, aside from the internet, I only see the folks at VE, or chat with other hams on the radio. Radio will still be my main social outlet, but I am looking forward to participating in things with actual people, not just internet friends or disembodied voices.

Any way you slice it, there are some big changes in store for our family. I for one am looking forward to some change with open eyes, mind, and arms. Klamath Falls… bring it on!

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

What I want from a product

I want…

title on payment, infinite tinkerability, and anonymity. Three little things. That should be easy, right?

Title On Payment

Technology has crossed many lines as it’s development has accelerated, but none so egregiously as title.

When a writer produces a book they hold a copyright on that intellectual property as does an artist with a work of art. These are reasonable expectations by in large. Software becomes a bit sketchy. When I “buy” a piece of software I understand that modifying it would relieve the producer of any liability in its use, and reselling it or a derivation would be in poor form, but why go after someone for modifying something for their own use? Software may be a bit gray for some, I will easily concede to that.

When I BUY something made by someone else the transaction should be complete. If some warranty was included in the purchase, upon the end of that term then the transaction should be truly complete. What is more likely the case, we are bound to a long list of obligations to the “proper” use of a product and inherit a slew of exceptions and controls from the manufacturers of component parts and assemblies.

The true nature if our “purchase” is most likely never completely revealed even by the fine print in that service agreement. You read yours, right? How about that TV you just bought? That TV busts all three of these. The manufacturer retains rights in perpetuity, including watching you and tracking your location and usage their product. Same thing goes for phones and computers along with many other new consumer electronics. The trend is to carry similar conditions of use on just about everything, this includes the largest consumer electronics device you own, that car has a computer in it. It also likely has a GPS, even if you don’t have access to it directly.

Oh, by the way, disabling or interfering with the devices ability to phone home to mamma is also not allowed. Not being a “criminal” in the eyes of these Orwellian manufactures is virtually, no pun intended, impossible.

There are ways to insist on title, but they are more difficult to attain as technology moves forward. Going back to older tech, before the Big-Brother attitude took hold is the easiest. Next would be to build your own equipment but that isn’t an option for many people. Until industry is forced by the consumer market to stop such practices the only other alternative is to not adhere to the terms of service, and these days, unless you exist in a SCIF it is unlikely you can prevent some devices from transmitting data back to the factory.

Infinitely Tinkerable

There once was a time when products were made to be repaired. I know, amazing isn’t it. What changed the world was industrialized manufacturing. Yes, it goes all the way back to the 1850s. It started with textiles and progressed into other trades ultimately reaching basic housewares.

With the advent of electrical appliances, things were still put together on assembly lines so a human had to actually assemble it meaning a human could ostensibly disassemble it or repair it. These days things are ether made by a robot, assembled from non-durable materials, or integrated into little Black Boxes that completely preclude even figuring out how the darn thing works at all. There is also the likelihood that more than one of these methods is used.

So what? You may ask. The problem is that it divorces us entirely form understanding how the products we use work, how it was made, what it “does,” it’s all just magic. The danger is that when power isn’t available for whatever reason or the device, haven forefend, stops working you are truly S.O.L. And if that dreaded experience happens at an inopportune time what will you do?

My first thought would be “No big, it’s just tech. Go old school.” But how many of us are ready to go old school for realsies. I recently found out they don’t make Thomas Guides anymore, they haven’t for years. If you had to travel 200 miles and didn’t have your GPS or Google maps how would you get there? Do you know the route? If a known route is blocked can you navigate around the disruption? Have you ever used a compass? Recently? Do you own one? How about a map? Seriously, I almost cried when I found out about the Thomas Guides I loved them, but I didn’t NEED them so I stopped buying them, apparently like everyone else.

So what does this have to do with tinkerability? It’s just one aspect of a device we use daily. Sure, I could replace a SIM card, battery, or even a damaged screen, but I haven’t got a clue about anything else in fixing my cell phone. It’s a magic Black Box. Consumer devices aren’t made to be tinkered with. If you can’t tinker how do you learn about how a device works, improve it, fix it, or diagnose when something goes wrong, or truly know what it is capable of.

Okay, most of the things a “smart” phone does you can be done without for a while, with a little planning. What about your car? Do the phrases “backyard mechanic” or “shade-tree mechanic” sound vaguely familiar? If not, well… buy some really good walking/hiking shoes. I aspire to working on my own vehicle regularly. Unfortunately I was recently reminded that my old ride isn’t old enough.

Any car with a computer is a pile of problems waiting to happen. The manufacturers of today have all conspired to make it very difficult for backyard mechanics, not just in repairing problems but in diagnosing them. There are so many sensors, many for “SMOG control,” that alter how your vehicle runs, without specialized diagnostic equipment there are things you just cannot do.

Case and point: My ride was having a problem with the Camshaft Position Sensor. It was replaced at Shop A. The check engine light persisted even with the new part. I have an OBD II reader to see, theoretically, what the problem is and what engine code is keeping the check engine light on. What that tool doesn’t tell you is when the mechanic that replace the part didn’t follow the proper procedure.

After months and lots of money at Shop B who had not reached a successful conclusion, they accidentally fixed the problem and had not realized and returned the vehicle to me and told me to go to the dealership because only the dealership had the right computer equipment to do everything required to fix the problem. All of this headache to get a PASS on a SMOG Check. It passed emissions, it was just the check engine light that prevented it from passing. (Gotta love California! NOT!)

If it requires a $20,000 diagnostic computer, it ain’t tinkerable. If you can’t buy a part for less than the original product cost to fix it, it ain’t tinkerable. If it’s not physically possible to open it up, AND put it back together without breaking it (assuming you are inclined to such things and there by skilled at said task), it ain’t tinkerable.

Anonymity

I more than alluded to this earlier on. When I buy a product I don’t want it spying on me in any way, shape, or form, for anyone. It’s bad enough with browsers and the internet. I do not want my TV telling Amazon what movies or TV shows I watch on Netflix. Is a little privacy too much to ask for? Unfortunately, there is so much going on in the background of everything internet related you don’t really know who’s connected to who. Sadly, you can assume that everyone is connected to everyone else.

There are steps you can take to anonymize yourself, at least to some degree, but the philosophy of governing bodies, even those who purport to support freedom and democracy, take a dim view of people who value their privacy. Online, with encryption, and even improving your own firewalling and network security, which of course is a breach of your terms of service as well, so you must be a law breaker.

Conclusion

All three of these overlap back and forth in varying ways depending on the product, and they are all things that manufacturers are actively working to take away from you, the consumer. It’s all too easy to wax romantic of days gone by, but the fact is we live in a different time, and we have allowed companies and governments to get to this point. As they say, it’s easier to never give up a freedom than it is to reacquire it.

The more we all work to improve our title rights, demand tinkerability (and use it), and press for or impose anonymity, the market will have to give way. But it is up to us the consumer to make these demands.

I for one am in the market for a truck made before 1976.

Résumé Updating

TakingNoteIt’s been a while since I took any time to update the old résumé, though I must admit not a lot has changed, it’s just time to polish things up a bit. I have a LinkedIn account and I do make minor changes there every so often, but I haven’t done much with the hardcopy. *shudder… hardcopy*

While going through my LI profile something in the “Interests” caught my eye…

“movies, music, writing, flying, aircraft (design/construction/restoration), amateur radio, history, anthropology, archaeology, genealogy, archive, preservation (document/book/photograph), blacksmithing, silversmithing, metal fabrication, woodworking, sustainable living (building, power, farming, food), alternative building technologies, primitive technology, self reliance, resiliency (personal, local, community, regional, national)”

I’m pretty sure I have gone down this road before at some point, but it bares repeating. It’s the resiliency line personal, community, local, regional, national, (and by extension international). With all of the hullabaloo about Brexit people are thinking about how it will affect them. Really, it shouldn’t.

Before anyone starts screaming “Exclusionist!” or “Nationalist!” like somehow nationalism is automatically a bad thing like the bought-and-paid-for media would have you think, participating in worldwide commerce is not bad, far from it. Depending on a centralized global economy is bad, very bad. Even centralized national economies are bad. We keep having example after example of what happens when centralized economies have sector hiccoughs. The whole thing is affected.

When the US economy crashed in 2008, due to our own internal centralized economy and the managers of that system doing bad things, it was felt around the world. When the Greek economy tanked it was directly due to the EU centralized economy, and it affected all of the EU and beyond. The Brexit issue has been felt all over the globe as well. These effects are all because of the idea that the world is somehow better off when we all have our eggs in the same basket. It is absurd.

Why Jon, when you say it that way it sounds so obviously bad, but surly global economics aren’t that simplistic. Actually, yes. Yes they are. At least from the notion that centralization is a good thing. So in this case it really is that simple.

Centralization, in any system, creates more sub-systems and moving parts that are all interdependent. The level of complexity is exponentially increased, and much of the energy that goes into the system goes towards minimizing losses and damage the system itself creates, and of course the administration of the system. Not to mention that the resulting product is generally of lower quality by the time it gets to the consumer/user. Worst of all, with all of the interdependence even a small hiccough produces problematic ripples throughout the system and may even halt it all together.

A simple example is the spinach crisis a few years ago in the US. Much of spinach supplied to restaurants and some grocery stores was recalled because a pig got loose on one farm. There was an outbreak of e.coli, not an epidemic, but large enough and wide enough spread to panic a lot of people, cost farmers millions, destroy a large portion of the nations spinach crop, and waste millions in resources throughout the centralized food system. Absolutely none of it was necessary. To top it all off, it further set in motion more restrictive regulations shutting out some small farms due to the onerous regulations and cost.

So what does all of this have to do with resiliency? Any engineer will tell you eliminate single-point-failures, and provide redundancy if you want a resilient system. You cannot design a resilient system from the top down, it just wont work it, more to the point it can’t work. It must be designed and built from the bottom up. That’s why the order I use is so important personal, community, local, regional, national, (and by extension international).

To avoid collapse of any of the centralized systems we currently have, start with yourself and your family. Have plans and preparations in place so you are more resilient. Help family and neighbors to be more resilient. All of you can start working on getting your community more resilient.

Slowly but surely people are waking up to the simple facts. As the understanding of how theses system interrelate and how wasteful they are, how the systems only care about the system and not the end user, how the user is cheated out of high quality goods and is forced pay a premium for the privilege, people are beginning to put all of the pieces together.

No amount of railing on and on about how simple this all is will convince those who choose to stay the course. They must see the light in their own time. This is something that I am coming to terms with myself. It seems so clear, and I want the people I care about to be resilient and not suffer when those hiccoughs occur. All I can do is walk the walk and demonstrate by example.

All of the Brexit panic, anger, frustration, division, and the eventual blow back all come from not understanding what great-granny always said “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Smart old broad that.

~FlyBoyJon

The passing of 2015

20150222_1436272015 has been an interesting year. You could say it was full of weird and wacky adventures, loss, sadness, backsliding and headaches. It has also seen some forward progress, accomplishments both personal and professional, and a lot of forward momentum on future planning.

The pic is from our vacation/scouting trip up to Klamath Falls, Oregon back in February. It was a great trip. We had a lot of fun and it helped set a lot of things in motion for our future.

I’m not really sure what it all means but 2016 promises to be a big year of change. Tammy and I are already working on getting fit. She has been doing Weight Watchers and hopping on the treadmill. I have been working on getting back to Paleo and tredmilling as well. I am also getting back to isometric strength training. The fitness kick is more than a general health looking in the mirror thing, it is in preparation for moving forward with homesteading plans.

We have talked about it for years and I have been studying a variety of subject areas. I am now well versed in alternative construction techniques and permaculture design, though there is always more to learn and I am by no means an expert. I am versed in a wide range of sustainable systems for the homesteading environment and I am excited to get building.

Gardening has presented the largest challenge. Our 6′ x 10′, west facing, covered, patio space is not even close to ideal. We have had better luck keeping plants alive inside than outside. A while back we resigned ourselves to holding off on building the gardening skills until we are in a more rural environment with enough ground space for a full kitchen garden.

I have been studying up on Hügelkultur, permaculture soil building and earthworks, pioneering plants, cover crops and general land rehabilitation. Depending on the site, it is likely that the first year or two will be spent more on soil development than anything else.

We have also been working on our food preservation skills. Tammy has been getting into canning, mostly jams and jellies. I just finished canning four pounds of jalapeño peppers which filled eight pint jars that are now cooling. Over the spring and summer I dried a lot of Serrano pepper from the three pepper bushes I was able to grow on the back porch. I am hoping to do more soups and veggies in the coming months.

Speaking of food… the livestock issue is one where we are pretty much complete novices. I have had a little experience with rabbits and chickens but that was over 40 years ago. Based solely on our regular food patterns, raising chickens is pretty much a must. Anything else would be more a function of site.

Soil needs, available resources, what the site can support, structures, and systems, these are all site dependant and since we don’t have a site yet, we are at an impasse in these areas. Over the last few years we have been acquiring the foundation information and resources to get started. With this in place we are turning our focus on doing what we can do, close out debt, save as much as we can, and focus on getting property.

So that’s where we are, looking for land.

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

E3 & New Shop Layout

So far October has been a blur of activity. All of the construction going on here at the complex has finally wound down. We had new railings installed throughout August and all of the windows replace in September. The windows actually drug on into the first weeks of October.

FCC-logoI have been studying for my commercial radio license off and on for a few months but really dug in last week. Today I took the Element 3 exam and thankfully passed with flying colors. While I may now exercise the privileges of a General Radio Operator’s License (GROL), I am looking forward to the FCC issuing my first commercial call sign. Once I get the commercial call sign I will begin working towards my RADAR endorsement.

Along with studying for the exam I started reconfiguring my shop layout. With such a small space it is difficult to keep a ‘general’ layout that works well. Tammy and I are developing some new business ideas and I need a shop space that is more conducive to those ends.

I have been reinvigorating my jewelry skills along with other small-object metal-work skills. Mostly copper, brass, and some silver work. The new bench and shop layout is set up for smaller woodworking pieces, metal work, small mechanical, and restoration work.

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The new layout moves the bench into a corner and consolidates the tools from the French Cleat layout onto a piece of 1/2″ plywood that takes up much less wall space. I need the wall space because we picked up a couple of large rolling cabinets to help get tools and supplies all accessible without having to roll stuff around. This layout also gets all of the toolboxes in a place where they are reachable from the bench and I can have all of them open at the same time, also without having to move anything out of the way. Configuring small spaces is a bugger sometimes.

I’m sure there will be changes here and there as I start to work in the space and get used to the new layout but the biggest hurdle, accessibility, seems to be held at bay for now. With the shop configured, I can get back to working on projects.

One thing that is going to be difficult is figuring out a space for doing some small scale foundry work. I need to build a small smelting furnace and small casting frames. I want to start setting aside recovered aluminum and copper ingots for casting projects. It’s time to take recycling to the next level. 🙂

Until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Fall fell, or did it?

What crazy weather we have been having the last month or so. The daily high temps could have been anywhere from 60 to 100! Now it seems the weather is shifting into the more normal fal pattern, and we sure could use it. I believe we are at the bottom of the medium drought cycle and on the recovery side of the long cycle, but who really knows these days. The weather models have been “adjusted” so many times lately I don’t think anyone really has a handle on the changing patterns.

20150920_141131Besides all the weather stuff… I had posted about all of the seasonal movies in our que, promptly after making that post and settling in for some movie time, the TV let some of the magic out. It appears that it was just the internal power transformer but I have been playing hobb trying to get parts, so we ended up getting a new set so I can spend some more time on the repair. Best laid plans I suppose. I will post a follow up on the movie list later as well as a follow up on the TV progress.

BTW: When selecting a new TV, or any consumer electronics for that matter, make sure you buy a real name brand, Sony, Magnavox, Samsung, etc., someone who has a large product line and has been around for a while. Someone with a reputation to be concerned with and a supply chain that requires conformity. If you want to give an off-brand or small-house product a go, make sure you can get service documentation (schematics, diagrams, parts lists, troubleshooting tips) before you buy, and hang on to it. You or your repair person may need it.

Apex Digital is a crap manufacturer and documentation on their products is basically unavailable. Parts are also unavailable unless salvaged off of used boards, and even then are a crap-shoot. Within the same model I have found numerous incompatible parts changes, and no one can get component parts. Very few sources can even get board level replacements.

20151001_105529Moving along, I have been busy with woodworking projects for work. I have been wanting to build an built-in rent-drop for years. We started out with a basket on the wall inside the mail slot then progressed to putting a bookcase/cabinet in front of the slot with a hole cut out of the back and a basket on a shelf. After almost 20 years I finally got to destroy the bookcase/cabinets I hated build this built-in fixture. So far we are very happy with the results.

Along with the day-job stuff we have been working a some other projects that necessitated buying a few tools. Gee darn, I hate buying tools. The first two are a dapping block and a disc punch cutter. These have been on my list of jewelry tools for many years, I just never could justify them. With our current project list there are several items that need these tools. Some are jewelry related and some are for hardware and findings. Another tool I have been coveting for a very long time is a rolling mill. This one was a bit pricy but I found a deal for about a third of the usual cost. We both decided that was the Universe saying it’s time to add this tool to the round up.

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20150922_165018While I was at it I managed to make another tool I have been waiting on for no apparent reason, a jeweler’s fork, or as it is more commonly known, a bench pin. I’m not sure why I waited so long to make one, but here it is.

After getting the tools in place I worked on a few test projects and was reasonably happy with the results. Two copper rings, one with an aircraft rivet, a copper button, and a practice go at a cross-peened leaf which is a component to something as of yet undecided.

I like working copper, particularly recovered/recycled copper. There is so much you can do with it. The leaf and solid ring were made from old copper pipe, the riveted one was made from some salvage electrical wire, and the button was made from some fourth-hand scrap copper sheet.
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While in the groove I also “recovered” some tool steel from some old screwdrivers and annealed them so I can turn them into some jewelry tools before re-hardening and tempering them. Another simple tool build was a pack of sanding sticks.

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The last thing on the list is my continued studies for my Commercial Radio Tech license. I passed on of the three a couple of weeks ago and plan on taking the big one next week. I will follow up with the third, which is for an endorsement, later on in the month.

That’s it for now, until next time,
~FlyBoyJon

Is a blog just a blog?

Sorry about yesterdays disjointed post. I’m really not sure what happened, other than distraction and a somewhat confused general state of mind after spending the day in the shop cleaning up.

This morning I am gonna’ do a little house cleaning here on the blog.

I had set up a blog for Off Grid stuff. If you know me IRL you know I want to live ether next to, or near by a small airport away from “the city.” Hey, I am a small town kind of guy. I also want to be living as self-sufficiently as possible. The Off Grid blog had a few entries that I wanted to keep so I moved them her to FBJ and closed down that blog. If you are interested, they are in the Off Grid category on this site and I will be posting any new stuff here.

It seems like the FBJ site has always been somewhat enigmatic to me. Maybe it’s my OCD that gets in the way of just posting when the mood strikes. I like to have things compartmentalized into there own little categories separate from each other. Having an idea for a post is one thing, I have them all the time, what usually keeps me from posting is where to post it. This gets messy when you have so many interests, and worse when you have a bunch of topic specific blogs. So here we are again, It all comes back to FBJ. I am going to try and post when the ideas strike rather than saying to myself that it should be posted somewhere specific to that interest.

I will continue posting to Lumber Jocks because I am participating in the woodworking community there and that interaction is important to me.

The Vintage Aero Works site and blog are still in the planning stages, but that site will most definitely be reserved for aircraft restoration projects and related topics. it will be my commercial/professional website.

So what will be posted here on FBJ? A little bit of everything. A lot of aviation, some school related posts, woodworking adventures which will mostly be tool and aircraft related along with skill builders and cabinetry work, and any progress in moving off grid and all of its related topics. All of this along with an occasional soapbox post on politics, religion, philosophy, the economy, or anything else that pops up.

One of my goals for this year is to be more engaged with the FBJ site. We shall see how it goes.

Until next time. Peace, Love and Airplanes.
~FlyBoyJon

Tribal Knowledge

While reading through my monthly yard of magazines I came across an article that sparked my interest. It wasn’t the whole article, or even a complete section, it was two paragraphs that grabbed hold of my attention.  The point the author was making was that in the aviation maintenance industry, thought I think it holds true for many industries, pass-down is an endangered skill set.

For those who don’t know, pass-down, typically found in law enforcement or in the military, is when a shift changes hands the person going off-shift meets for a few minutes with the person going on-shift and gives them a briefing on what transpired and what new bits of information may be of importance or value to the next shift.

Pass-down is a simple process and can be vitally important in dangerous environments. In aircraft maintenance  when a particular job will take multiple shifts to complete, taking the time to pass along information about the previous shift can prevent things from being missed, or provide a clue on a difficult problem that will save the next shift a lot of time and frustration. In short it can save money and lives.

In the short term it is fairly obvious how this can be an important part of many industries saving time and money by passing along information and lessons learned from one person or team to the next. Where this becomes really beneficial is in the long term. It is that shared knowledge base that can keep us from having to relearn the same tasks over and over again. By now you are probably going “ya, duh” but here’s the rub, it happens far less than you might think.

Accumulated knowledge does happen, and it manifests in many ways, books, documents, magazines, websites, wikies, and more, but the volume of what doesn’t make it to those resources is staggering. There is so much OJT knowledge that can only be found through experience and working side-by-side with someone who ether had it passed down ti them or had to learn it on their own.

As a society we have thirst for knowledge, or at least experience, in our hobbies and recreational pursuits we are more than happy to pass along information, it seems to be very different in our professional lives. It seems as though we treat those bits of knowledge as trade secrets that we have teased out of our jobs. Something that will make us look good before reviews, or let us shine above our fellow workers.

Accumulate this store of knowledge, we stash it away for a rainy day. I understand the mechanics and psychology of it, it is a convoluted combination of motivations, but it really isn’t helpful to us, our employers/clients, or our fellow travelers down the path of our chosen career. What we should be doing is mentoring, not only the skills that we have learned, but the pride and ethics of a job well done.

In truth, I think the decline of pass-down is more a symptom of the money-above-all-else attitude that seems to be pervasive in business. You still find active participants in pass-down among those whose lives are at stake every shift but in the day-to-day lives of the non-lifethreatened worker there is little incentive. Loyalty and trust are in short supply on both sides of the employer/employee relationship and this two way street doesn’t seem to see much traffic these days.

I believe there are five ways to show commitment to my craft/trade.

  • To always do the best that I can
  • To take ownership in my work
  • To continue to learn and hone my craft
  • To encourage those who show interest and promise
  • To always practice my craft/trade with honor and integrity

Following this path, at lest for me, is how I combat this money-first attitude. Sure I want to make a profit, but I am willing to take a few points off the top to maintain my personal standards and integrity. Are you?

Something about lumber

We Can Do ItIv’e spent some time sourcing materials the last two months and I found out a few things; the most important of which is that it is good to look for local suppliers of wood products. Having said that, I am going to be buying my lumber from Aircraft Spruce. “What the what?” you may be thinking, well here’s the thing, I have been poking around for spruce and doug fir as well as marine plywood. The 1/16″ plywood is a flat out no-go any where else locally. The 1/4″ and 1/8″ plywood can be found locally but the quality varies widely as does the price. I thought I had a supplier for a really low price, turns out the quality matched the price.

I had much better results in the Lumber search in that I could find good quality doug fir. The price for it matched or in some cases exceeded the cost of spruce, which I could not find locally, at least not in quantity or quality. So I am back to Aircraft Spruce, not that this is a bad thing mind you. The main reason I was looking to buy locally is I try to do that with everything. Buying locally improves the local economy, and buying from small business helps revitalize the vanishing middle class. At least I can say in this case that I will be buying regionally from a small/mid-sized company. Aircraft Spruce has a store down in southern California, it’s a seven plus hour drive from San Jose, but paying for gas is considerably cheaper than the freight costs having it shipped up to me. I plan on buying stock sizes and milling myself to keep the costs down and ensure ready availability.

Now that I am back to were I was last month as far as the materials quest goes, I am more prepared and knowledgeable in the area of aircraft lumber. I know what I can get and where to get it, as well as what substitutions I can make for specific applications. It looks like the plywood is going to come in just shy of $1,000 (materials and tax). I need to calculate the lumber requirements, that is this weeks project, but I am estimating that to be about $500. I will need a few odds and ends to have on hand, basic airframe materials, so I am planning on a $2,000 trip including the round trip fuel for the van and me. It’ll be a long day but a fun one I am sure.

The only tool I need to look into at this stage is a plainer which I am sure I can find at Harbor Freight in Newark. I also need to make a router table top and several jigs for cutting precisely duplicated wing ribs, all of the materials for this stuff I ether have or can find locally on the cheap. All-in-all I think I am getting really close to making a lot of saw dust.

Until next time, blue skies and tailwinds,
~FlyBoyJon

Electric Cars

I watched the documentary “Who killed the electric car?” a couple of days ago. If you are interested in electric cars, alternative fuels or alternative power generation I highly recommend this film.

Who killed the electric car?<soapbox> I fully admit I have no love for the Big Three US auto manufacturers, for a variety of reasons. Aside from their being among the largest conglomerates in the country, aside from the perverted, incestuous, and deep multi-layered collection of sub companies, aside from their talent for destroying small businesses, aside from their historical penchant for buying new technologies that could revolutionize transportation from small businesses and developers and hiding it from the rest of the world for decades or just destroying it outright, aside from all of that… I just don’t like what passes for ethics in there world. </soapbox>

Any project that can lead to the development of personal or public transportation vehicles or systems is worthwhile in my book, whether for personal or public development. Anything we can do that will be good for the environment, reduce costs for users, and take a chunk of change out of the pockets of the Big Three at the same time, thats just awesome.

There are small businesses in nearly every large metro area that can convert ANY car into an all electric car. It’s a three-fer; supporting small business, recycling a car, and removing a gas burner replacing it with an electric! The down side here is the cost, a complete change over to a plug-in electric is about $15,000. There are DIY option for this though. Batteries and the right electric motor are still expensive but the prices are coming down. A gear head with five or six grand could effectively do a home conversion.

Since I am low in the cash department, I was looking at the TruckBike as a starting point. Human powered, converting to human-electric, then on to electric. After some deeper thought on the subject I am starting to think skipping the human-electric phase. Building a plug in just might be easier than trying to work out the bugs in the human interface portion; just a thought.

Not everyone is up for a build project, and not everyone is able to cover the up front costs of a conversion. There is a burgeoning movement however of people finding creative ways to finance a conversion project when they need a new car. Think about it, if you have the credit to go out and buy a new car, you should be able to get a loan to finance the conversion, it’s cheaper that buying a car, so the payments are lower. There are some grants and other incentives from the fed, state and some local municipalities that may lower the initial investment. After that, monthly operating costs are going to be lower and regular maintenance costs are going to be substantially lower. It just might be worth the research if owning an electric car is something you are interested in.

Most estimates put the break-even on a electric conversion at around three years. With fuel costs what they are and maintenance on an aging car, it’s not that hard to see the payoff, and that is strictly looking at the money side. From an ecological perspective it makes a big difference.

Anecdotally, I heard a story about a person who got an all-electric conversion on there BMW. To go one step further, they installed a high quality solar array on their garage roof, including an energy storage system. The whole thing cost a little over $50K. For that they got a completely refurbished BMW and… the solar provides all of the energy for the car, as well as a significant portion of their home electric needs. No more gas stations and you energy bill cut in half. Now thats a payoff!

Until net time,
~Jon