My Other Website, toolmakingart.com

Open Tool Box

I have for many years been posting tool making projects, woodworking, metalworking and gardening articles on my website, toolmakingart.com.This last year I have sadly almost totally neglected it. I love making tools, but I started writing the Headgames series on February 24, 2015 and have been seriously focusing all of my spare time on writing these books. So many wonderful projects are on hold until I finish. Who knows though, I have so many book ideas scrambling in my head waiting for their turn to be written.

Bob

Headgames IV: Spirits and Space

Book4 Kindle Cover

I have just started working on the fourth book in the series. I have a lot of editing work still to do on  book three so I will be shifting my time between the two books for a while as we shake the bugs out of the third book.

There is so much to cover with this book. 1977 is an amazing year and August of 1977 is an interesting month for Space exploration.

 

Lots of interesting things planned, Ben visits Space, Japan and Korea. The Elf wars continue and Ben is getting ready to visit a Japanese bluegrass festival.

I am still researching Korean lore. Lots of interesting things. For example, Hwang-gung ruled for a thousand years before becoming a stone that spoke and reminded men of their path to innocence.

Bob

As an update, Happy New Years! I am now at 50,000 words on this book!

New update, it is January 25. Despite having to spend too much time editing book III, writing a submission page and writing a synopsis, I am now at 63,000 words. This is probably a bit more than half way done. I may have to alter the book title. ‘Spirits and Spies’ seems to be a better description of things.so far. In any case I am enjoying the book and can’t wait to see what happens next. You would think I would know, but the characters in this book have no respect for the outline.

Update, January 29, I have passed 70,000 words and finally Jewels younger sister makes her appearance!

Update January 31, 76,000 words. In twenty four more days I will have been working on this series for a year. With work and editing I probably won’t finish this and have written four books in one year. I won’t rush to fit it in. I love these books and don’t want to compromise on the quality. But I do have a goal and with the fates willing, I might just finish book four before the end of February.

Remaking a Snap Blade Knife or How to Work Wood that Splits Easily

 

I love mesquite wood. It is beautiful, tough, weather resistant, hard and the worlds most stable wood. It does have a curious weakness, a screw will split it in half despite it being able to survive years as a mallet. The wood can split.

So there are methods you learn, that you would not have to learn on a wood that did not split easily. This project will show a lot of these methods.

Click Knife Tutorial

Snap Blade Knives are handy. I use them to cut things that I would never, ever use a good knife for. If you are going to cut a box open or shape cardboard, score chipboard or cut sandpaper, then a snap blade knife belongs in your tool box. The problem is that even a nice one does not fit in when you are putting it beside fine hand tools. Lee Valley has just offered a new Retractable Japanese Saw in a snap blade knife format. This is a great idea, but it calls for a nicer handle than the typical snap blade knife shows.

Technology is a Bad Master

I love technology.  It is a wonderful toy and servant  I have at various times in my life designed, built and repaired equipment that used vacuum tubes and mechanical relays for logic. Let me brag for a moment. I have been a technician through a vast time of changes. In many ways, I see technology from a standpoint that is fully immersed in the history and structure of technology.

The problem with technology is complex.  At the very heart of it is a basic compromise.  Each step in that compromise is a sacrifice we rarely recognize at the time.  To show what happens, let me predict a few things in hindsight and then show that these things hold up as true for the future.  Technology first intrudes in our life as a toy. Then technology becomes a tool.  After it has become a tool, it then becomes our master.  I wish this were not true, but history tells me it is.

Cars were toys for the wealthy before they were tools to get places.  Now not spending a large part of your resources on having, maintaining, fueling and insuring a car is in popular perception, embarrassing. The song, “No Scrubs,” has a key repeated point about how worthless someone without a car is.  This change happened within my parent’s lifetime and things are just moving faster.

My father had no plastic toys growing up.  Such toys did not exist at the time.  My father did not have a toy that operated by the push of a button.  Imagine that day.

When I was a child there were a few children that had their own phone line.  Their families were considered wasteful, doting and wealthy.

Only twenty years ago cell phones were quite rare.  People had pagers if they needed to be contacted.  Now cell phones are electronic tethers that a lot of people would never imagine willingly being without.  I am quite sure that a lot of companies would make a note of anyone applying for a job without having their own cell phone number.  Not a positive note.  This change happened within the last twenty years.

So I sit at my computer, writing this post with an array of programs and tools running.  My desk is filled with conveniences and past conveniences I am loath to dispose of.  Perhaps it is because they are still somewhat convenient but they are no longer my master

Bob

 

 

 

Dark Precinct by Robert A. Taylor

Dark Precinct

Dark Precinct follows the day to day and night to night life of Vanessa Braden, a black female detective who was just assigned to cover an abnormal beat. A very enjoyable read. The author presents a detailed and complex world in an appealing manner. The characters are well constructed and the plot line is solid. It feels like a good episode of Castle with hints of MIB, Angel, Buffy and Forever Night mixed in.

This is a book by my brother in law, Robert A. Taylor.  I have know Robbie since he was 12.  Robbie is well read, thoughtful and creative.  So I must confess a bit of bias and connection in this review. I love this guy like a little brother!

 

Bob

Errant Knight by George Wier

Errant Knight
Errant Knight is a book I just read and reviewed on Amazon Kindle.
Shelby Knight is an ex-policeman who made mistake with a gun and let everything in his life fall to ruin. Then things take a turn for the worse and he is not sure who he can trust.
George Weir builds a character that is solid. I felt his emotions and his pains.
This is a gritty tale of distress, distrust and determination set in the grim lonely streets of Austin Texas.
Would I read it again? Not just would I, I did!
This is a book by George Weir. who writes the Bill Travis Mysteries and quite a range of other books.  He is also very special to me.  He is my brother in laws best friend from way, way back.  I have know George since he was 12.  He is a thoughtful, kind and humorous fellow.  Many a time we have fought together against dreadful foes.  But that is another story entirely.

Lettuce as a Complex Environment

I have been harvesting lettuce seed recently. Usually I just put a palm below one of the dandelion like flowers and with the finger tips of the other hand, massage the ripe seeds from the flower. The ripe seeds fall right out, along with a bunch of chaff.

As a child, I used to go out in boats with my father. He was a professor of ichthyology, he studied fish. We would go out with buckets of formaldehyde, to preserve our catches. One of the most interesting tasks we persued was collecting samples of all the camouflaged life that was teeming in the seaweed. Tiny shrimp, crabs, fish, insects and sea horses blended into the seaweed that was quite thick with all the creatures. If all of them just ate the seaweed, it would have been gone quickly. Instead these creatures mostly hid in, filtered from, hunted, cleaned and on occasion, ate the seaweed. It was a balance forged over the ages.

Several years ago, I planted a bunch of lettuce from every source I could. I wanted to find the single lettuce that did best for me, and tasted the best. This way, I could raise one lettuce and have pure seed each year. My test was a failure. Too many lettuces were delightful, but did not fare well. Too many were not quite what I wanted. A lot did not germinate evenly or at all. Some varieties fell prey to insects instantly, some could not take the weather. I enjoyed a lot of them, but I resigned myself to buying seed each year and not keeping a variety. I let a bunch of them go to seed hoping to play with a hybrid, but I did not know how or when to harvest the seed, I let it dry out completely and rain spoiled most of my chances to figure it out.

So you know, keep watering the lettuce, when the parasols on the seeds open up, preparing to catch the wind, then the seed is ripe. You can pull them out by the parasol, or gently roll the still green flower base, and free the seeds.

The next year I had a bunch of volunteers come up. After sampling a few leaves, it was clear that this romaine was just what we wanted. You can take mature leaves off and it keeps producing for months, it is just sweet enough and just bitter enough to be perfect. The stem is crunchy the leaves are tender, it does great in a salad or on a sandwich, so here it was, a gift from nature, the lettuce of my dreams.

So now I grow huge amounts, remove the plants I don’t like for one reason or another, and let them go to seed, so I keep a broad genetic base, and always have extra seed. I suspect that when I got all that lettuce seed, I got something else. Something that a lot of people would never have noticed. Most people spray or pick the entire plant, and never see it go to seed.

A lettuce plant can grow tall, and live for a long time while producing seed month after month, if it is kept healthy. As you can see from this picture, it is a big mass of buds, seeds, leaves and stems. On this mass is a resin of sorts, so it is also sticky.

Lettuce gone to Seed

This time I decided to go for a huge mass of seeds. I bent the heads over a large steel bowl, and then worked each of the dandilion like flowers with my fingers. the ripe seeds fall right out and split from their ‘parasol.’ I shook the entire head and gently rubbed the slightly sticky resinous mass with my hand dropping even more seeds into the bowl.

I collected an amazing amount of seed, although it does not weigh much. I was just finishing when my wife called me to supper. After supper I went out to sift the seed from the chafe and pack it up. The seed was filled with bugs. The bugs blended in, but the surface was alive with the mass of moving bugs. I stopped counting different critters at about 9, as I was not sure if I was repeating or getting different ages mixed up. Apparently my lettuce is like the seaweed I picked through in my youth. The bugs are not as striking and wierd, they are mostly off white, pale green or barely yellow. But the same principals are here. The neat thing, is that my lettuce appears to be insect free. I get nice big leaves, and lots of seeds. So here in my yard is a Sargasso sea if you will. A complex environment.

I do not mind the bugs one bit. And while I can claim some rights as I am the one that prepares the soil, plants and waters these treasures, there is a balance here, that predates me. There is a symbiosis and an entire biological system in the lettuce I grow, that makes me a bit player. They patrol, protect, and preserve their home, my lettuce in ways I do not know. These critters do it for a living, I am just here for the lettuce.

Bob