Sounds of Guns

We were speaking last month about the noise made by guns and gun ranges. I got to talking with Older Son about the noise from the range, and we ended up talking about the sounds of guns that we hear at home. Both of us hear guns from time to time. Our responses to the sound are very different from one place to the other.

My house is out past the suburbs, in what we laughingly call the “ru-burbs.” We are in a subdivision, but it is a subdivision in which the smallest lots have 3 acres and some lots have 5, 6 or even 10 acres. The neighborhood is people who wanted “elbow room,” but did not want to go many miles out in the countryside and away from suburban conveniences. We are four miles from the nearest business but only five miles from supermarket and a dozen restaurants. I think about half of the families with kids are homeschoolers here. It is nice to live in a neighborhood with a lot of free-range kids.... [Read More]


Swiss Army Knife on wheels!

As some of you know, one of my hobbies is model railroading. In following up on that I belong to a few Facebook groups that are in that vein. One is a group called “Switchers and Critters”. Switchers, (in England and a few other places called shunters), are small engines that are used to sort out the rail cars at a railroad yard, to organize them into trains in the order that they may be dropped off. The other, Critters, are a mixed breed, some are shop built, railroad shop that is, for specific purposes or uses. Some are rare special purpose bought by a railroad. In that group I found this “Critter”. With a tip of the Hat to John, I present a Swiss Army Knife on wheels! Seriously this is a vehicle used for maintenance on the Swiss Federal Railway.


I’m happier now…

I have been cleaning my basement of years, (25+), of hording, well sort of hording. In the process I rediscovered a set of three models that I had ordered and were hard to get. They were for my future HO scale railroad. The three were models or kits that when completed would be very accurate renditions of a REAL Steam Shovel. One that was powered by steam! I set these aside knowing they were valuable. When they were available the cost was in the area of $20 each, Now, I don’t know if they are available, but at last look, the company that made them no longer existed.

I went looking for where I put them, sort of wanting to drool over the kits, but I could not find them! I was heart broken, I thought they were mistakenly thrown away or fell into a trash bag and now are a tiny tiny part of landfill.... [Read More]


The Dawn Wall

The Dawn Wall is a documentary about the life of climber Tommy Caldwell, culminating in  first free* ascent of a 3000-foot sheer wall on El Capitan in Yosemite with his partner Kevin Jorgeson. During Tommy’s early years, he learns climbing from his father, whom he finally surpasses in his mid-teens. Tommy’s victory at age 16 in the International Sport Climbing Championship in Snowbird, UT launched his professional climbing career.

In 2000, he and three other climbers traveled to the Kara-Suu valley in Kyrgyzstan on a climbing expedition. While they were 1000 feet up a wall, Uzbek rebels fired on them and forcing them to rappel down. The four rebels marched them around the wilderness for six nights, hiding them from Kyrgyz army patrols during the day. At the end, they were left alone with only one of the rebels, at which point Tommy pushed the rebel off a ridge so they could escape to the safety of a Kyrgyz army post. He describes that experience and subsequent path to climbing the Dawn Wall in this talk. [spoilers]... [Read More]


Book Review: The Boys’ Book of Model Railroading

“The Boys' Book of Model Railroading” by Raymond F. YatesIn the years before World War II, Lionel was the leader in the U.S. in manufacturing of model railroad equipment, specialising in “tinplate” models which were often unrealistic in scale, painted in garish colours, and appealing to young children and the mothers who bought them as gifts. During the war, the company turned to production of items for the U.S. Navy. After the war, the company returned to the model railroad market, remaking their product line with more realistic models. This coincided with the arrival of the baby boom generation, which, as the boys grew up, had an unlimited appetite for ever more complicated and realistic model railroads, which Lionel was eager to meet with simple, rugged, and affordable gear which set the standard for model railroading for a generation.

This book, published in 1951, just as Lionel was reaching the peak of its success, was written by Raymond F. Yates, author of earlier classics such as A Boy and a Battery and A Boy and a Motor, which were perennially wait-listed at the public library when I was a kid during the 1950s. The book starts with the basics of electricity, then moves on to a totally Lionel-based view of the model railroading hobby. There are numerous do-it-yourself projects, ranging from building simple scenery to complex remote-controlled projects with both mechanical and electrical actuation. There is even a section on replacing the unsightly centre third rail of Lionel O-gauge track with a subtle third rail located to the side of the track which the author notes “should be undertaken only if you are prepared to do a lot of work and if you know how to use a soldering iron.” Imagine what this requires for transmitting current across switches and crossovers! Although I read this book, back in the day, I’m glad I never went that deeply down the rabbit hole.... [Read More]


Checking Off My Summer List, Part I

Note: Ratburger friends, I will have to post pictures soon.

Summer in Northwest Montana goes by in a blur. One breezy, sparkling day, a season I call “late spring” emerges out of the weeks of rain, mud, fog, and false starts. I’m ogling the blossomy landscaping at our McDonald’s drive-through and thinking that this must be the prettiest corner of the prettiest region in the US. We’ve arrived, and I vow to hold on to each day so that the months don’t flip by quite so quickly. But then after just a couple family visits, an out-of-town trip, several smoky days we hope will go away, and some weeks of tourist-packed traffic, we’re suddenly back to new teacher training at my job. And then I see the back-to-school supplies at WalMart. And finally—the death knell for summer—come the first crimson leaves that signal we’re about to enter that other season, that one that is unpredictably glorious, and we hope long, but always the gateway into weeks of bleak indoor weather.... [Read More]


Weekend Cruising

Sunday at 2pm one of us decided to go somewhere. This week, the adventure target was the Deschutes River Conservancy Area near Maupin , OR.
The other one decided it had potential, so off we rolled in the F150.

I love day trips. The weather was perfect, sunny along the whole route and all we needed to do was grab a travel mug of coffee (Try Black Rifle, I recommend highly) , a bag of beef sticks and grain free granola bars, the new camera and off we rolled. All else is in the truck at all times.... [Read More]


Serenity As A Time Share

It being the Red Headed Irish Wisecracker’s birthday we headed to the Ridgefield NWR, which is only seven miles from where our new home will be.

Memorial Day weekend weather here in the Wet Northwest is soggy, with 99.9% chance of overcast except for brief gorgeous sunshine, deep blue skies and white cumulus clouds if you act without hesitation.... [Read More]


Local kid

Local kid achieves fusion in his bedroom lab.   This is a local story, because it has been done before.   The only newsworthy angles are that he is local, and he managed to set a new record as the youngest person to accomplish this, at age 12 (a day before his 13th birthday).   The previous record holder was a Texas kid who had been 13 when he got his fusion reactor working.

“Fusioneers” is a thing.   There is an active international group of hobbyists with their own home fusion reactors.   That sounds like the sort of thing some of y’all might actually do, so I noticed the headline.... [Read More]