Coping: Is Your Future “Inoculated?”

imageWe might as well jump right off into the weird  this morning – because I had one of those “waking moment” insights that are often quite valuable

The idea goes something like this:

When I was a kid I was bounced around between regular and accelerated math classes.  Some damn fool thought I had a brain but didn’t realize that I didn’t come with a single ounce of attention, discipline, or will to study.

But curiously, my second-highest scores in school were in English.  Not spelling, not proof-reading, not syntax…just English.

Fast-forward to this morning’s life review.

Long time ago -In one of those “accidents” that happen to kids, I was up the street at my life-long friend’s place and we were (age 11 or so) messing about with a tape recorder as I recall, and as I got up, a #2 Yellow Pencil fell out of my shirt pocket and I stepped on it as precisely the moment it was pointing straight up.

Naturally, it didn’t remain standing up and promptly broke off with about one-inch of pencil point broken off inside my right foot.

So off to the emergency room, doctor fishes out the left-over pencil parts, puts a piece of surgical rubber tubing in, and for the next three weeks, I pull an 1/8th inch of it out every other day, or so…

The foot healed find and that was that.

Until this morning.

At which point, something in the brain finally fires – 55-years after-the-fact – and asks a very profound question:

What is the one skill that pulls about all of your work experience together as a common thread?   Writing, right?”

Well, I sit there pondering this-here little gem for a couple of minutes and sure enough what is it that on-air broadcaster, newscaster, management geeks, and financial writers (and did I mention airline VP and college president) all have in common?

They have to write like maniacs.

And grad school…what was that?  Again, more writing.  In fact, what I learned in grad school was how to write for an audience – my faculty advisor.  The more and better I wrote, the higher the GPA until when all was said and done it was a 4.0.  But not necessarily on quality – I think it was more the quantity that blew ‘em away.  2000 word essay?  Two hours flat.  Hell, that’s only 17 words per minute…

Education is comprised of two parts.  There’s the rote/parrot part – and I know people who excel at that.  Then there’s the logical analysis, problem identification, recipe formula, and eventually the implement of the problem-solving.  But we don’t score the latter highly.  Modern education is still trying to figure out the topology of intelligence but the way is slow.  Way slow.

This pencil-breaking-in-foot story got me to wondering how many people get “inoculated” in some manner into what will become their life’s work?

I have seen bits and pieces of it:  A young man who falls in with bad company rises to become a Raymond Reddington criminal sort.  A woman who was always playing with her dolls as a child, who then ends up in the fashion industry.  The boy fascinated with chemistry and fire as a child grows up to be a firefighter…Kid breaks an arm or leg and is captivated by medicine – hears mom and dad talk about how expensive health care is so he grows up to sell malpractice insurance, lol.

When I see kids who are playing with video games (to the exclusion of much else in life) I can’t help but suspect that these ‘inoculations’ are in some manner about to appear as our future.  The video gamer is now a drone driver and they m ay have a bright future as remote vehicle operators.  In an earlier time, the gamer might have been good fodder for the nuclear power industry which does a good bit of remote-control work.

When you get a few minutes, it may be productive to think back on your youth. 

If my nutty idea du jour is correct, there may be a pivotal moment when something happens that forever locks you onto a path in life.

It also places huge importance for parents on tracking the activities of kids to see what the ‘inoculation’ happens to be.

Daughter who is getting married next month, for example, had a serious brush with celiac disease (wheat allergy) when young – and that put her on the path to a career in the culinary arts…that kind of thing.  The ‘inoculation’ was a food issue and the career just followed down that path.

You’re welcome to report any experiences along this line in the comment section below.  I’m collecting a few and what comes out of it is a very interesting question about exactly how these childhood/prepubescent events form us throughout the balance of life to follow.

OK, on to practical matters…

Self Reliance:  Death of an Air Compressor

My 10-gallon air compressor is finally giving up the ghost after about 8-years of service. 

I was cutting up some 10-inch wide galvanized flashing for the deck with my nibbler (similar to the Neiko 30067A Pull Type Air Nibbler $57) and the compressor started to scream (belt slipping) and the cylinder head completely overheating. Almost hot enough to catch fire.

Time to get a new one, although I will dink around with belt adjusting over the next couple of days, but it’s not too hopeful. A replacement compressor pump is $80 on eBay and then I would still have a 8-9 year old tank…

It was time for it to go down the road, anyway.  It was a half-assed machine from day one.  Mainly because it didn’t make enough air for the kinds of things I like to use air tools for.

If you have never considered the joys of air tools, the main reason I like them is there are just some things where air tools do a better job than electric versions.  For things like paint spraying, for example, there is no substitute if you’ve moved beyond the power roller stage.

The main thing about air tools is that they are inherently safe.  Which means given a choice between using an electric framing nailer in the rain or an air-powered version, you’d be a damn fool to choose electric except for rare circumstances.

When comes to fasteners, once you get under an inch in length with fasteners, then find, electric brad drivers are easily used for things like finish work.  Damn little of that goes on outside.

Also with electric tools, investing in a 14/3 or even 12/3 100-foot extension if a good idea with the usual caveats about don’t use a cord that has any insulation issues at all – that’s how people get killed by electrocution.

In automotive and aircraft work, you don’t use electric tools because of the risks of a cord being cut up on sheet metal and such.

Air compressors are spec’ed on two air pressures.  One is typically at 40 pounds of pressure – a level that might be useful spray painting a house.  The other is 90-pounds of pressure which is where more serious tools – framing nailers, impact wrenches, and air drills and grinders, are used.

The 40 pound rating is nearly (but not quite) useless.  If you are using it for arts and crafts (air brush painting is an art) then yes, the 40-pound rating is useful.  But its at 90-pounds that you want to get at least 5 cubic feet per minute (5 CFM @90Lbs).  6 CFM at 90 is even  better.

Only two more important points:  Get the biggest tank you can deal with.  The tank is a reservoir of airs so the damn compressor isn’t running all the time.

The other consideration is hoses.  If you are running big tools, then ante up for the larger diameter 1/2” hoses.  The standard 3/8ths are OK for home shop use (which is what we’re on) but money saved on 1/4” hoses isn’t worth it.

Air compressors are like sailboats, motorcycles, and everything else in life:  A Compromise.

My “dream compressor” would have been a the California Air Tools 15020C Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 2.0 HP 15.0-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor but it tips the wallet over to $459.

On the other hand, Harbor Freight has a $180 compressor that – while light on the pressure at 90 pounds – 4.7 CFM – should still work OK because it has a 21 gallon tank.  And that’s $180 and there’s a fair bit of party can be had for the almost $300 difference in price.

What I may do, though, is install the compressor in a sound-reducing box…we’ll see how loud it is.  You just know the cheap compressor will be louder.

You get what you pay for…but no point to buying a 50-year tool if you only plan to be futzing around the shop for another 20-30 years.

One last IMPORTANT DETAIL”  Be sure to drain your compressor regularly.  They will load up with water fairly quickly, especially here in the South when the humidity is high in the summertime.  A quarter to half cup of water a week, depending on weather and use.

Also – if you use it around your shop, there is absolutely nothing like a 50-foot auto-return hose reel.  Set you back $70-bucks, but it makes blowing off tools and keeping things looking sharp a very easy task.

One of these days I will use mine for clean-up….

Another Thursday Tool Slut Note

Let’s talk roll around tool boxes, for a sec.

The best tool I have added to the collection is down at the airplane hangar.  It was $25-bucks and it is absolutely great:  Stanley 018800R Mobile Work Center.

It is NOT SnapOn or Knaack.  But for around the house?  Come on, now…

I am planning to pick up a second one for Elaine to keep her “house tools” organized.

Yeah, she already has a regular (fishing tackle box-sized) tool box.  But she has too many tools so the only way to keep them organized has been to put the spillover into a drawer in the kitchen.

Since we’re both always in motion doing something, or other, this works.  But the tool cart has lots of other applications.  For example, I may get one for the recording studio – load it up with the odds and ends that make any room look messy.  I could put the microphone collection in one, for example.

I used to think that the major cost of projects around the home would be the materials.

Becoming a tool slut has changed all that.  Having the right tool for every task has turned out to almost always make the tool cost higher than the material cost.  Which is why I should have bought Lowes stock a long time ago – but didn’t.  They have a real “mine the miners” franchise when you think about it.

Off to work then!  Most places around the country are now in prime workshop weather:  Cool enough not to be miserable and warm enough you don’t need gloves on to work. You might consider my rule:  Knock off for the day when the temp passes 83 or drops below 45.

My next design/build project is to put about an 8×8 deck on the front of the sun room using recycled material.  See your local CraigsList for additional tools, look under the FREE heading for projects and – if you have any money left – check used tools there, too.  Sometimes you can come up with some real winners.

Old tools are sometimes as good (or better) than new tools and remember our recent discussion about the needle scaler to remove rust and then cover with POR-15 45006-6PK Gloss Black Rust Preventive Coating – 4 fl. oz., (Pack of 6).  You want the six-pack because it’s too easy to ruin a quarter if you’re only doing an occasional project.

One Last Tool Note

I don’t know why, but I have always been intrigued with ShopSmith rigs.  There is one for sale locally which looks brand new.

Out of my price range, but do you know anyone who has used one of these things?  I’ve always wondered how they worked out.

Well, One More, Then…OpenSourceMachines

I assume you know about which is the brainchild of Pat Delany or (where else?) Palestine, TX…I mention this periodically.

Way cool and if you want to do a bit of scrounging around, you can make most anything you need in the way of machine tools.  The .PDF of the manual is available online here – free.  There’s also a Yahoo Group.

And yes, the point is, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And why the Nobel committee doesn’t dispense awards to people like Delany who are really changing the world, is beyond me. Bootstrapping is incredibly important knowledge.  This is well past Vince and David Gingery stuff, but that’s classic, too.  I still dream of building their metal shaper machine

So much for the mid-week version of This Old George…

Write when you break-even,



Coping: Is Your Future “Inoculated?” — 23 Comments

  1. Hi George…love your work!
    It seems I was “inoculated” at a fairly early age. My mother had a pastel portrait of an elderly monk (one who happens to be part of the logo of San Remo products) done by my paternal grandfather in 1903. This pic fascinated me as a child and into my teens. (Since my mother’s death, the pic is now in my possession.) As I was pretty good at drawing I tried using pastels and had a lot of fun doing cute pictures, copied from things which took my fancy. Ultimately I went into nursing and then became a midwife, in UK then here in Australia. About 35 years ago I sort of fell into doing pencil sketches of very sick babies at my workplace, then on to pastel portraits of deceased babies. I am now in my 70’s and though I retired from nursing last year, my portraiture continues and I am privileged indeed, having done thousands of these portraits over the years, from all over the world. Look up my name followed by “the baby artist” for a piece written by my daughter. So, yes, I was indeed “inoculated”! Thank you for pointing this out…I never would have twigged!
    Cheers, Sue

  2. On the inoculation side…when I was young…(8-10 yrs) I would go out in the evenings and early mornings and watch the stars and meteor showers. Must have rubbed off out there, as I went on to study theoretical physics & astronomy at the Master level from Univ. of IL…and worked as a Nuclear Scientist for the Gubbermint.

  3. Have an old friend that has been a tinkerer and creator from long days gone, and most of his work has been done on a Shopsmith, with great results, from the practical to the artistic-his ebonized white oak chess set and case quite worthy of display. As long as you remember to not ask your machine to do too much you won’t need to have as many concerns about replacement. But as far as the compressor, it was time. Too bad you couldn’t have repurposed some portion of the unit to meet another need.

  4. Today’s column was very good, and kudos to Pat for his concept of using engine blocks as starters for machine tools. Occasionally I need to build something for a specialty function, and this is great. Of course, I downloaded the PDF immediately, and will read through it further.

    On a slightly different subject, it seems that those who are good with languages, people skills, and other mass memorization/emotional response situations may not necessarily have problem solving skills. I have the reverse problem and am being seriously challenged learning Chinese, both language and culture. Any thoughts on balancing these skillsets so we can all be fully functional humans? It’s considered best financially to maximize your strong points, but that leads us to all being lopsided people. Maximizing and strengthening the weak points, especially later in life, is truly a project.

  5. my inoculation came at 5 when i first saw a typewriter, i just had to have one and asked for one for Christmas. Dear parents honored my request, i could not operate it and the ribbon would get all twisted up and the ink wore out but i just knew i had to type on that critter – needless to say – that typewriter became the key to my profession.

  6. I believe I developed wanderlust from looking at my great-aunt’s Viewmaster slides of national parks when I was a kid. I wanted so badly to see those places! None of my immediate family had any of those yearnings. Although I took many trips during my married life, I didn’t completely fulfill this inocualtion until I retired and became a full-time RVer. I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything!

  7. Innoculation. Mom (much to her disappointment)tells me my first word was “light” while looking up at the ceiling light fixture. Around age four, while riding into town at night past the local radio station, I was fascinated by the red lights on the towers. Dad tells me that’s where the music on the radio comes from… wireless… magic that flies through the air. Thus began a lifelong fascination with wireless technology. Ham radio as a teenager, and a career in broadcast engineering radio and television. Years later I became the Chief Engineer of that radio station that had tweaked my interest in my early years.

    I, too, was bounced around advanced math classes but I hated math and was not motivated. The military entrance exams showed I had high IQ potential, though, and I signed up for that new-fangled digital computer training stuff. I hid the fact that I already had FCC radio licenses, and the military taught me digital computers before there was such a thing as a microprocessor. This came in handy later in life as a broadcast engineer, also.

    So from an early age I see now I was pretty much destined to become what I am.

  8. Today in Yahoo headlines:

    “As attitudes and laws in the U.S. have become more tolerant of marijuana, the proportion of adults using and abusing the substance at least doubled between 2001 and 2013, according to a new study.”

    HahahaHehehe….Please explain to us how it is possible to abuse pot?

  9. Inoculation … I think there are emotional ennoculations also. How we percieve life, how we treat others and what we do on a more personal level. Fascinations, create desires. While some people are “typical” others are amazing … It’s something instilled within them.

  10. George, about that air compressor business — it may not be a major point, I just feel compelled to share a thought or two.

    “In the years since this settlement, however, one sees just as much advertising and labeling of inflated compressor power as ever.”

    Air tools are awesome — when you have enough air for the tool and the work you want to do with them. (I once had representatives from Chicago Pneumatic pay a personal visit to ask me how I did what I was doing to be saving my company so much money–but that’s another story, another pivot point.)

    Just hoping you’d be mindful about your purchase.

  11. …..l stepped on a sewing needle and broke an inch of it off into my foot. l was twelve at the time, and the needle worked its way out over a 15 month period. I can’t sew, in fact HATE to sew, but am very creative in other ways. l grew up to be a wholesale plant grower, so l guess l stepped in a lot of potting soil (and manure) as a kid,too ..go figure.

  12. How about those of us who went into professions that didn’t even exist until later in life like computers? Nothing like a stint partying in the military to kill time until the occupation shows up. Land surveying, my military job, no longer exists in this world of GPS coordinates. World travel, camping, subsidized booze and cigarettes etc. on Uncle Sam’s dime if you are smart enough to stay out of combat.

    And single family housing is the most resource intensive housing in the world. It is simply unamerican to have a garage with enough room to fit a car in. Not to mention the lawn and environs, plus the commute, etc. Just one more aspect of the American Dream that is no longer affordable. With all the stuff in your shop, you could do maintenance on a hundred apartments. The earth will breathe a sigh of relief when American can no longer afford it’s American Dream.

    It’s like I told my son, who has spent much on tattoos. Go down to the unemployment office. When you see a heavily tattooed person, that is a person who has tats they could not afford and are now just figuring that out. Same thing for people with full garages and even storage units who join the 95 million unemployed adults in the USA.

    With all the baby boomers starting to die off, you should be able to go to the city and find everything you need used on Craigslist or Ebay using the option to show items only within a certain distance. We gave away thousands of dollars of stuff in our move to Ecuador, sold even more for pennies on the dollar and still ended up with a few boxes that were unpacked only for a garage sale last spring after 5 years.

    • You sounded flush with wealth to begin with, and a bit of a hoarder, wouldn’t you say? Most people downsize several times in their lives. Most people do not have the 2 car garage, they live in older structures. What do you live in? A hut? Do you walk to the grocery store? What will you do when you can no longer walk there? Many of the DEPRESSION/WWII generation are dying off, their stuff is worth more and better made than the baby boomers stuff. Some of your posts have a sound of arrogance to them; as if you are picking on the USA from afar. The money we spend, after all fuels the other nations, does it not? Else, why has TPTB seen fit to remove our manufacturing from us to bring us down to, is it, your level? What tit are you living off of down there in Ecuador?

  13. I agree, I love “this ol george”. Your life experience is every bit as worthy as your market observations. Most of us out here are able to invest TIME in worthy projects. Perhaps more so than money! It’s like having a really, really smart, experienced older brother who doesn’t mind sharing his experience. Really a huge fan of the “how to” and “WUJO” stuff. Your out of the box thinking really is stimulating. Keep up the good THINKING. best, e.

  14. Regarding writing. I am a MD, Radiologist. During training, it was pounded into our heads (at least by some of the older wiser staff) that the written report we produce on a patient examination is really the *culmination* of our professional life. It is the outward expression of our skill and ability. Our reports will be read and examined by other physicians, patients, lawyers, administrators and judged by them (possibly in a court of law). Writing a concise, precise, unambiguous, helpful report is absolute necessity both to help those around you and for a trouble free career.

  15. I used to be (am) a “tool hog” and have been since the ’70s but mostly in woodworking projects from storage houses and fences to furniture. Long time ago, I considered ShopSmith as opposed to stand alone tools and went with stand alone. You probably have this link but might not have done a search on “ShopSmith” for actual users’ comments. Great site if you haven’t already used it.

  16. I think you have something with the “inoculation” concept. Among my favorite toys growing up were the log house, plastic brick, and plastic block building sets. Loved messing with those. I ended up being interested in structural design, but landed on architectural drafting. My greatest strength in that was detailing, figuring out to put together whatever was designed by the architect.

  17. ” If my nutty idea du jour is correct, there may be a pivotal moment when something happens that forever locks you onto a path in life. ”

    Dear George.. once again you deliver a wonderful article. this one gets my wandering mind working in another direction..
    As a child I was considered different and would dumb myself down to fit in. the only times kids really liked me or were eager to hang around me was when a needed book report was due or a thesis paper written on whatever subject.
    During the hard seventies and eighties I literally worked so many positions in part time and temp jobs that I can’t tell you them all. where I found my niche was when family members were ill.. I found that by taking care of other people at their weakest I not only fulfilled my personal needs. because of the fractal way my mind works I was able to learn from their life experiences and the directions their lives had traveled that goes way beyond what is written. things they didn’t actually think held any importance.
    Because of the hard times I found that I fulfilled my personal needs by going out and finding one family at christmas time to shock and awe them without them knowing who their benefactor was. ( oh that is fun to ) ( I do tell my grand kids ( which they don’t listen) not to dumb themselves down.. get the education excell and get the scholarships that will open up doors of opportunity for their futures)

    • families that fall through the cracks that is.. people like to believe there are huge giveaway programs and there are some that are able to work the system but very few.. from a single mom that was turned away from the hospital because she wasn’t sick enough and didn’t have insurance only to get deathly ill in the middle of the night had to be put in a controlled coma to survive the ordeal.. she left a thirteen year old daughter to care for her five year old brother without any one to assist them no food heat turned off and rent due etc..( I love these stories and because of the mystery man that came to our assistance in the darkest moments of my life.. I choose to be the mystery man for a select few one a year.. oh I give OST’s to.. since most single mothers and college girls are waitresses)OST OH SH#T TIP

  18. Inoculation
    Mine was seeing an TV episode of Dr. Kildare, where minor surgery was being done. A nurse was passing instruments. I thought surgery was very interesting. So my career was in nursing. I spent alot of years providing care to patients during their surgical experience. I eventually moved on to providing patient education for chronic health conditions after holding various nursing positions for a large health inurance company. Funny how things turn out.

  19. My husband’s name is Tanner. He loves motorcycles, building unique things with his hands, and has an appreciation for old antique guns. However, in the last 5 years, his biggest obsession became:

    Leatherworking. I kid you not. He damned good at it too.

  20. Really enjoyed today’s issue.
    How about less stock stuff and more
    “This Old George”?