I Am Insane

August 21st, 2008

...but some of you already knew that.

I purchased a drill press some years ago.

Nothing beats a drill press for drilling many perfectly aligned holes in just about any material.

Well, I know of lots of tools that beat a drill press, but I need something that I can afford, that doesn't require 3-phase power, and that I can fit in my garage. So, like, not this.

My drill press came wired for 110V, but the motor is 110V/220V. All my other equipment was running off 220V, so I did the switch, no problem.

Actually, small problem: Now the the whole press was 220V, including the worklight fixture.

Not wanting to drill holes by improvised exploding flashbulbs, I naively decided that 220V light bulbs would be the quick, easy answer.

Except that 220v incandescent E26-base bulbs cost about $7-$10 each with tax and shipping.

So I bought a bulb, wrote "Use 220V bulbs only" on the press, and stewed.

After a few years, I couldn't take it any more.

What to do?

My first thought was to tap one leg of the 220V supply, but the press is wired with two wires instead of 3-wire 220V like a clothes dryer.

I went brute force instead and I bought myself a 200W step-down transformer, a drill/tap set, and a bunch of crimp connectors.

Is a 200W transformer overkill for a fixture that's going to see a max 60w bulb? Yes it is. Your point?

I pulled the press apart (including some magic with a tapered spindle, a pulley, and a 3-lb. hammer), drilled and tapped mounting holes in the drill head, shopped for parts at my favorite electronic surplus store, and spliced wires.

Damned if the thing actually works. Total cash outlay has been about $22. That's easily many years of $10 light bulbs, but now I don't have to store any extra 220V bulbs or worry about years from now my son helpfully changing the light bulb and blinding himself with exploding glass shards. Yes, I worry about these things. Someone has to.

When the incandescent bulb finally goes the way of the passenger pigeon, then I'll have to find a CFL that fits, but until then, I'm pleased.

Georgia on My Mind

August 19th, 2008

So the Russians are busy defending their citizens in a neighboring country.

Also, as secondary considerations, they don't want Georgia to join NATO or to provide a bypass for oil to the West.

Really, who can blame the Russians for poking around in their neighbor's yard (which used to be their own back yard before all these new fences were put up)? Energy is a huge trump card for Russia's game with the West. Why should anyone expect them to just give it away?

And missile defenses in Poland? Does anyone really expect Russia to just roll over like a sleepy ol' hound dog as the West chips away at their leverage on the world?

Their justifications for invading are more gossamer than a Victoria's Secret fashion-show wardrobe and threatening Poland with nuclear attack is a tad heavy handed, but what else did anyone expect from the paranoid, corrupt, insecure, zero-sum Russians?

All of these big, global issues deserve answers more potent than NATO's limp-wristed, peevish "business as usual" complaint, but that's not what got my attention.

I watched a BBC report from Georgia yesterday. A German husband and Georgian wife were on the road out of Gori. With their young daughter and son in the car, they were doing their best to get their family the hell out of town. Men in civilian clothes shot at them as they passed. Everyone in the car was injured. Everyone survived.

The dad relates how he drove like mad on flat tires, then bare rims, to get away.

The mother, full of bullet fragments on a grimy hospital bed, cries as she talks haltingly about shielding her children with her body.

The daughter, about four years old, explains how her teddy bear was soaked with her mom's blood.

The son, probably less than a year old with a big bandage taped to the side of his head, smiles in wonder at the BBC's camera and lights.

Soldiers, martyrs, Olympians, families: We're all just a currency to be spent, a raw material to be crushed in the friction between nations as they posture and wrangle.

In the Hands of Babes and Sucklings

August 12th, 2008

Newsflash: Teenagers are generally stupid and dangerous.

I know that I did some pretty stupid and dangerous crap when I was a kid.

Either I was lucky or not stupid and dangerous enough, so I managed to make it past my 25th birthday without wrapping my car like a pretzel* around a telephone pole.

Listening to the stories my dad tells of his youth, he was just damned lucky.

Now we must endure the local coverage, the tributes to two saints who died: A. On the cusp of embarking on their new life after graduating high school. B. On the cusp of entering their final year of high school to then jump off from that upcoming cusp into a promising new life.

Such a tragic accident.


These "accidents" happen all the time. When I was a bairn, a car stuffed with popular girls was killed at a rival high school. I overheard talk at a party about how it was such a tragic accident. Being the sensitive guy I am, I waded in with "Bullshit. There's nothing accidental about it. The driver was racing another car. She took a turn posted 45 mph in her Ford Escort at 80+. There was construction gravel at the apex of the turn. That driver was stupid and she killed her passengers."

I didn't make any new friends that night, though I reinforced some existing friendships.

In this most recent case, somehow a teenage guy with more testosterone than sense (read: every single teenage guy with descended testicles) got his sweaty palms on a '97 Corvette.

If he bought it himself, saving and scrimping from summer jobs, he could've saved a lot of hassle and his passenger's life if he'd just bought a Mossberg (he was too young to buy a handgun in California) and splattered his meager brains over the Adriana Lima pinups in his bedroom.

If the Corvette was a gift from someone who should've been older and wiser, well, you fucking killed those two kids as surely as if you'd gifted them a hand grenade ("Whatever you do, don't pull the pin. Be careful. OK?")

* I found this image while looking up images of crullers and pretzels, and I just had to share. It's slightly NSFW, but it had me thinking thoughts of self-inflicted wire-coat-hanger-through-the-tear-ducts lobotomy. Enjoy.

Michael Jackson Is My Role Model

August 9th, 2008

I am bad.

Like, really BAD.

Well, at the very least, I'm not a good person.

I have it on good authority from the gentleman who approached me in the parking lot of the closest Home Depot with a sob story of not doing drugs, four days in the parking lot looking for work, homelessness, and help needed until his settlement comes in.

See, according to this guy, I looked like a good person.

It wasn't enough that I was wrestling 6-foot of ironwork into the ass-end of my Accord with five minutes left to zip home, collect the family, and head off to the grand opening of our newly rebuilt library branch.

I dealt the man yet another in a long string of crushing disappointments.

I was on the verge of suggesting various social agencies or charity organizations as he responded to my initial rebuff: "Wow... I guess you're not a good person."

I wish I could say that I had the presence of mind to mock him for his constructive attitude or admit that, yes, I'm a giant asshole because I don't whip out the cash for every stranger with a sad tale.

Instead, my mouth opened and out poured a wacky stream-of-consciousness tirade as he walked away.

When he turned on me, I had a sudden desire for a bit less churlishness in the world and a bit more .45 ACP on my hip. Call me a coward.

He suggested that I could just get in my car and drive away.

So I did.

We're Human... Really We Are

August 1st, 2008

What the hell is it with those goddamned stick-figure family stickers on the back of SUVs?

Do I give a shit how many identical little consumerist spawn you've managed to squirt into existence, all growing up with the expectation that they deserve to drive their own mega-mobile?

I grit my teeth at the surplus of Connors and Bryces and MacKenzies in the world already and here you advertise all your totally, completely unique little Connors and Bryces and MacKenzies as you cut in front of me and slam on your brakes to make the exit that, if you hadn't swung around me to pass, wouldn't have required the mad Bullitt moves.

What is the purpose of these stickers?

Are you really that insecure about piloting another anonymous GMC Earth-Killer or Ford Terrorist-Subsidizer that you need to reassure everyone and yourself that you are people, you're a family, and you're awfully cute? Look! They even have a little stick-figure puppy dog. Then I guess it's all OK.

You paid actual money for that trite crap?

God. Damn. It. Now what didn't I think of that?