Saturday, September 19, 2009

Forcing steel and copper to our will at The Crucible

Mrs Notthat and I spent the day at The Crucible in Oakland. I absolutely love this place - it is a fantastic facility to take a class or two and learn how to do a wide variety of things, from working with glass or neon tubes to woodworking to casting to just about anything you can think of with metal. And jewelry making. The instructors are amazingly patient and are great at working with a wide variety of students. They are also the ones behind the Fire Arts Festival I wrote about here.

The Boy and I took a two day welded sculpture class there a year ago - here is the write up from that.

Mrs Notthat and I were attending what they call "sampler" classes - three hour classes designed to show you the basics and whet your appetite for more. I chose the MIG welding class for us to attend in the morning and Mrs chose the jewelry class for us in the afternoon.

A really cool thing was that we had the same instructor for the MIG class as The Boy and I had for our class a year ago - Yrot (not his real name). Another cool thing was that there were only four of us altogether in the class. Somewhat surprisingly, the other two were both women (Etak and Enilorac - obviously not their real names either).

We started by taking turns with the MIG welder (here Mrs is making a much better practice weld than I did). One thing I learned was that MIG welding is about 100 times easier than the arc (stick) welding The Boy and I learned previously. I want one of these.

Here is Mrs practicing with the plasma cutter. A MIG welder and a plasma cutter and I could happily waste a LOT of time. It's so hard to get used to using plain old electricity to do all these amazing things to innocent sheets of steel.

Here Mrs is looking over her handiwork, preparing for the next weld.

Here I am in my stylish leather jacket.

Here are the results of our efforts (mine is the one on the right, with a pathetic SF Giants logo of sorts).

Here are the other two sides of our tea candle holders. Note the great job Mrs did writing "LUCAS" - that is really hard to do with the small amount of practice time we had.

Next it was on to the jewelry class, which turned out to be based around working with small sheets of copper. There were a lot more people in this class.

Here, the primary instructor, Esined, is showing us how to anneal our copper sheets. This ends up making them much more pliable and easy to stamp and bend. It also makes them filthy, so the next step was to pickle them in some sort of acid, followed by dunking them in an anti-acid and a bit of scrubbing. We also learned the POOP acronym. I'm pretty sure they were just making up a lot of these words.

Mrs Notthat getting some help bending one of her pieces, risking fingers for the sake of jewelry.

Mrs watching the other instructor, Einnob, do some more bending.

This is what I ending up making in the jewelry class.

Here is what Mrs Notthat ended up making.

It was a lot of fun spending the day with Mrs working with metal. The Crucible is close to a BART stop and right off 880 just north of 980. They have a wide variety of classes, many in the evening and weekends, and they are even having a 20% off sale right now for fall classes. They also allow kids as young as 12 to take some of the classes - it is very cool to watch your kid working with ridiculously dangerous tools, and end up actually creating something nifty.

Even if it is just a whole bunch of sparks and slag.

That's it - move along...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Deck and street update

Today, progress was made on two critical fronts on the homestead: we don't live on a country road anymore and the deck is much happier.

Paving All Done (we hope)
Several months ago, the city decided to repave most of the streets in our neighborhood. The streets had issues in places, but overall seemed reasonably OK. Since then, we have been banned from parking on the street five or six times - once was for three days. A couple of these days absolutely nothing happened, while on others a small amount of stuff would get done. It was like they took delight in disrupting our routines.

The aggravating part was that they would usually ban the parking on all of the streets at once, making it really hard to find a place to park the cars (and being California, we are all required by law to have WAY more cars and trucks and SUVs than even vaguely necessary).

About a month ago, our streets were left looking like this.

A lot of these rocks were actually glued down, but a lot of them weren't, and it felt like you were driving down a cattle trail. The rocks would get stuck in your tires and noisily come loose while going down the freeway. Our driveway would get drifts of these things.

This is what we were left with after today. It's fairly nice looking and relatively smooth - and kind of unusual looking with no patches, potholes, or blemishes.

The neighborhood is starting a pool for who will end up digging up this street first to fix a sewer or water issue.

Maintaining the Deck
I am really bad about properly maintaining our deck. I've only sealed it once, four or five years ago, since we have lived here, but I was determined to get around to it this summer. We ordered a new retractable awning to cover a large part of the deck, and this supplied the motivation needed to give the deck some love.

This is what the wood looked like before we started.

We started by cleaning the deck. If you are curious, the deck is about 400 square feet. It is big. Which means it can hold a LOT of stuff.

The lawn is currently keeping all the deck stuff company (except for the larger pots that were too clumsy to move).

This is what the wood looks like now (it was not dry at this point). The color of the sealer (Rustic Red) was a very disturbing color when first applied, but once allowed to dry a bit, it looked much better. I swear I could hear the dry wood slurping down the stuff - it even belched a few times.

The awning is going to be mounted on the far wall in this picture, going all the way across the deck and pulling out to just before the door on the right. It should provide a large dry area in the winter and a large shady area in the summer.

But first we've got to figure out how we managed to fit all that stuff on the deck and how we're going to make it fit again.

That's it - move along...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Boy gets a new bike

The Boy has been wanting a better bike for quite a while now. Starting about a month ago, he began seriously getting involved in bidding on bikes on eBay (motto: "Taking the Fun Out of Auctions Since 1995"). The problem was that people kept sniping in at the last minute and beating his bid.

Finally, last week, he managed to hang on and get the last bid in and bought a bike. Which then led to the fun of having to fight with PayPal. (The Boy and/or Mrs Notthat might add some details in the comments - I was only privy to the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Thankfully.)

On Thursday, the bike came in, unassembled, and in a cardboard box that seemed a bit too small.

But everything was there and the bike, while supposedly used, looked very close to new. The Boy got started putting it together as soon as he got home. We also had the grandkids over while their mom and dad went to a school meeting at Darci's school.

Riley discovered the wonders of some of The Boy's old Batman toys. He asked me for some help putting this particular action figure (not a doll) back together. He might not ask me to help again.

When the parents showed up, the dad (Needs Cool Name), who is a bike freak of sorts, eagerly jumped into helping put the bike together.

Things went pretty fast then, in spite of the grandkids persistent offers to help.

And then it was done. The Boy took it for a quick spin in the driveway in the dark and pronounced it nifty (probably not his exact words).

Now if only he can find a few spare minutes to actually ride the thing.
That's it - move along...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"I go a walking, too close to midnight..."

Saturday was my walking group's longest walk yet - 20 miles. Even walking at a fast pace, it takes at least 5 hours to walk this far (it took me 5 hours 8 minutes, although I stopped twice to get boulders out of my shoes, once for a bathroom break, and once for a lively row with my hydration belt).

In any case, it was decided to head out at around 6AM (as opposed to our normaly early 7:30 AM start time - keep in mind it's a Saturday morning when getting up early is rarely considered fun).

It's still pretty dark at 6AM. Here is our group heading out. We had the benefit of sporadic illumination supplied by the freak thunderstorms that were moving through the area. (We very rarely get thunderstorms around here, so this was pretty cool for most of us).

There is a nice, relatively flat paved trail we can use for our walks. Coach Luap (not his real name) likes to start us off with a 4 mile walk on a gravel trail that requires us to climb a couple of hills first though.

I hate this sign. I would take it down, but I suspect the hill would still be there. Also note that it is starting to lighten up a bit.

This was my view after reaching the top of the hill and starting back down. We pretty much never get clouds like this around here - they were stunningly cool, especially with their occasional lightening flashes. The clouds did a great job of keeping things cool and shady for most of the walk.

San Jose Fit had an aid station set up at the 6 mile mark on the paved trail. There were refreshing beverages, fruit and potato wedges, and other good things waiting for us there. I had been walking for about two and a half hours when I reached this point (the four mile hill-infested trail followed by six miles of the paved trail). I was a bit tired but feeling basically good. And then it dawned on me that this was my halfway point.


We continued up to the 8 mile mark, turned around, and headed back to the start.

In the end, my feet were pretty sore, and of all things, my nipples were sore from my shirt rubbing against them (this is a common issue with male runners, and there are products designed to prevent this - really), and I was very tired.

But I had recovered by the evening when my baseball group made the grave mistake of heading to the Giants/Dodgers game.

That game wore me out more than any walk ever could.

That's it - move along...