Making: Landscaping Improvements & Tractorfying

Saturday morning, after working the bugs out on the Peoplenomics server (new security update, CHMOD issue) it was time to get on to the first Make project of the weekend.  “Purdying up the yard.”

The first thing you do is touch off the pile that’s been accumulating for a few weeks.  The idea is you light off one side of it using what we call a “cactus burner” and then push the unburnt side into it.  That way, you’ve got great control of your fire.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal if you live inside a city and the fire department will be there in less than five minutes.  But, out here in the Outback, one respects the volunteer fire department, pays the annual membership dues promptly, and then watches all outdoor fires like a hawk.  Even so, we have had two fires near us already where I was one of the people on tractor-back making sure the fire stayed contained.  A drought’s on the horizon, and we expect the Texas Forest Service will be busy this year.

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People sometimes don’t appreciate how much damn work can be done with a small to medium sized tractor.  Let me show you a “before and after” of a stand of yaupon at the base of a keeper tree.  The first picture is from the tractor looking at the victim plant.

This second picture is a pass down and back later.

Less than 90 seconds.  Gone, mulched, done, and off into the deep woods.

There is some debate locally about what to do with yaupon.  Oilman2’s son, who’s been known to tractorfy a bit here ’round, is allergic to the stuff.

I’m none too fond of it, either.  On the other hand, since NPR has a story over here on the interesting past of the yaupon, maybe a hashtag (like #saveyaupon) will pop up with us at the center of a Trump-sized hate movement.  There’s just no telling, these days.

Still, American holly or just a damn nuisance, some of it near the house had to go.  So did a number of small trees that were blocking some of the young pine stands coming up.  You use the tractor bucket like a gigantic weed puller and then get the offending tree on the bucket and head for the fire.

When you get there, you drive into it as you dare.

This is one of those “judgement” things city slickers don’t think about.

OK, you need the tractor because it’s the main line of fire defense should the weather have been drier and the wind up.  But, in order to keep the fire heaped up (and thus burning clean, not spread out and smoky) you like to dump fuel into the middle of the fire.  But the tires will burn, so you are quick in, quick out.

Once the small stuff has been piled on, you go looking for big dead-fall.  Trees that have fallen down on their own.

You can see how far this downed tree hangs off the bucket on the right.  It dangled just as far off the left.  So, getting to the fire is a series of Z-turns through the woods; first the right side goes by a close tree, then a hard turn right to get it past the next tree on the left, and so on.  A diesel ballet.

Eventually, something always goes wrong when you are tractoring.  No, not if you’re a gentleman farmer on a manicured property. Nothing goes wrong there since you have unlimited funding.  But here?  Uh….

Out here in the Outback, it’s a constant battle to keep Ma Nature bound and tressed-up just so.  She, in turn, responds by getting the tractor stuck in soft ground at a low spot.

I’d taken on a LARGE defiant tree, maybe 20 feet long and fatter than me.   There was no alternative but to do an end-push to get it to open ground where it could be more easily moved.  The only way to get there was through a shallow drainage ravine.  Four-wheel drive or not, that’s where I got stuck.

The old farmer has lots of options, so that getting stuck is not the end of the world.  In fact, it can be an excuse to stop work for coffee.  One way to get out of such a predicament is to push the bucket down and using the power-tilt of the bucket, digging the teeth in – thus creating a great-big lever on the front-end.

That’s an easy one sometimes because you don’t even turn off the machine.  Just lock up the 4-wheels and let ‘er rip.

Except this time, it just dug in further.  The second option was to see what was holding me in position.

Answer: the brush hog.

Solution:  Lift the front off with the bucket to take the strain off the top link of the three-point. Unhook the top link, and  then pull like hell.  That worked.  Dragged the brush hog on the lower links.

After fighting a bit more with the big defiant log – this time armed with a hundred feet of 5/8ths line (Texans call it “rope” but remember, we lived on a sailboat and a 11-years of sailing sailing the salty seas hasn’t rinsed off even 15-years on).  Finally, I said to hell with it. Articles to write, beer to drink, and so on.  The ham gear needs to be used, too.

Besides, the rain had picked up – it was 11:30 AM now.  Another axiom of “working your land” is don’t do heavy work when the ground is really wet.

Soil around this part of the property has lots of clay in it and this means if you compact it down, too much, it is a bugger to get much of anything to grow in it.  Think planting in concrete. So, the tree gets to sit in a new place for a while longer.  A chainsaw will be applied at the right moment in the future.

With the rain was coming down, and now semi-soaked, it was nice to visit one of the dead cedar trees which we have left untouched so our wildlife has good homes.  The hawks and the owls like it.  Pretty tree, too.  It may be standing longer’n us:

Who said making landscape improvements can’t be gnarly?

purist on the topic of Making things might argue that landscape work is not “making” per se.  I’d suggest, any time you sculpt anything – metal, wood, and today even the forest, it’s all part of the continuum of making that distinguishes us from the Apes.

Even the ones who don’t look up from their phones.

Write when you get rich (or done),

Coping: Why “Rent Haircuts?”

Aging:  It sure beats the alternatives.  But, it’s also not as much fun as being perpetually young.  Hair is something that changes over time and as you age, things like ear trimmers become more important.

This month, my “personal odometer” is rolling over to 69- years and other than not feeling quite as “zippy” as in the past, all systems seem to be working.  Don’t need Viagra yet and except for the “solar panel” on top of the head, there’s enough hair left to make a barber smile.

But they don’t.  Reason is we don’t pay money for haircuts (you only rent them):  I still have that Wahl hair cutting kit I wrote up years ago.  When I started cutting my own hair, the kit I bought was about $20-bucks.  With the ravages of inflation, you can still get a Wahl Clipper Elite Pro High Performance Haircut Kit for men with Hair Clippers, Secure fit guide combs with stainless steel clips but it will cost around $39-bucks now.

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For men, it’s dirt-simple to use.  I just go to the shop (easy to clean up there), take off my shirt, put on the longest blade guide handy, and run it over my head from all directions for about 10-minutes.

There’s nothing left standing longer than the guide by the time I’m done.

To be sure, it helps to have a small “groomsman” type battery powered trimmer and have someone you trust (Elaine) to go around the edges to even things up.  Takes about 3-more minutes, is all.

By now, I figure I’m about 12-years into self-administered haircuts.  With even a cheap one going for $20-bucks (*with a tip) that works up to $960 worth of haircutting for a $22-dollar investment.

Not only that, but as I have gotten older (and crankier) I have less tolerance for “designer” haircuts.  You know the kind:  They wash your hair, rinse it, cut it, and then wring out your wallet.

I’m getting older, but can I still wash my own hair?  D’uh…I think so…

It takes a special kind of person to cut their own hair, I think.  Elaine has always cut her own, too, by the way,  About every 2-months she will trim her own hair.  Looks great, too.

First point of this morning:  I know that my hair cutting gear as saved us a couple of thousand dollars in the past 10-years.  Not just the haircuts.  But the time.  It’s an hour into town  and back from the Outback.  I don’t know about you, but 50-trips to town for haircuts at (whatever) per hour?  We’re talking a great investment every family should have.

Measuring Your Aging

The other morning I mentioned taking litmus test strips and measuring my personal pH.  (Might have been a cheap line about peeing on myself in there, too, since that’d how much style we have around here…)

But there are some other metrics, too.  Reaction speed.

It’s typical for a person’s reaction speed to be somewhat indicative of their age.  So, when you have a couple of minutes, head over here:

And see how good your reactions are.

After taking the test, I was somewhat reassured that although I’m aging (mirrors don’t lie) I’m still thinking at the same speed of someone less than half my age.  A good thing.

Or, at least I thought it was…I mean that’s what the site figures.

But, maybe that means that I’ve forgotten so much that there’s nothing going on to compete with reaction speed. Hmmm…

Another reassuring time sink is  I did OK, I think, but some of the games here are not benchmarked yet.

On the verbal recall I man aged 139 words correctly, but I have no idea whether that’s good or bad.  I gave myself a pass on that since Trump’s physician wasn’t available, lol.

Elaine was signed up for for a while, but we get so busy on projects that it wasn’t a good value.  For now, it’s fun to take reaction time tests and such, but once into your 70’s, there’s a need for a special test.  Which we have simplified as follows:

Special Age Test

(true or false)

  • Kids today are generally rude, disrespectful, greedy, and self-centered.
  • We live in one nation, under God.
  • All people deserve to start about the same.
  • Gender isn’t in the Constitution.
  • America needs a strong military.
  • China is not to be trusted.
  • Russia is not to be trusted.
  • Nancy Pelosi is not to be trusted.
  • is not to be trusted.
  • Liberal teachers at colleges is not to be trusted.
  • Eye for an eye.

As we have it figured with only 6-decades of observation so far, the answer to all these is True.

Save this test.  If you disagree with any of the calls, review it in a few decades.  The older you get, the more likely you’ll change scores to True.

The hell of it is, those selling false andswer are much more vociferous.

Ham Radio Corner

Don’t know if you have read the latest issue of QST, the monthly magazine of the ham radio American Radio Relay League, but one hell of a fine article on antennas and how much energy they suck up from  different kinds of antennas.

Up to 11 dB of tree loss?  Horrible.  The good news is that with our tower propping up the “aluminum overcast” we don’t have a strong incentive to whip out the chain saw.

But, don’t take out a life insurance policy on any of the trees within, oh, 150 feet of the tower:  Those trees are not only costing us maybe an “S-unit” (we won’t bore you with the long discourse on how to convert 20 dB over S-9 into dbm levels) they’re also blocking the sun on the solar arrays on summer afternoons after about 1 PM.

As much as Elaine loves trees, birds, and the park-like setting around here, George Bunyon has been eyeing the Blue Ox and the yellow chainsaw and figuring how (pun alert) this is all going to go down.

Third nail in the coffin for about 10 large pines is that they could fall on my office in a big enough wind.  While there are some trolls who would see this as just desserts, not quick was “sticking it to George” is about.

All I need to do is figure how to monetize it all…

Making report Sunday is the last episode of the Amplifier rehab (verging on serious this week) and new week we will be on to gardening and such…

Have a great weekend, work for something in your heart or wallet between now and Monday, too.  And don’t forget to….

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Not Quite “Miracle Soup” But Close…

Food:  The subject is near and dear to my heart… I look like I have never missed a meal in my life and may have eaten some other folk’s meals, as well.

But, I was reminded of vegetable soup again when my buddy Gaye put up the recipe for “Miracle Soup” this week.  (*Article is over here: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Cabbage Soup & a Healthy Diet.)

Gaye’s “Miracle Soup” is slightly different than mine.  Since my family has been making vegetable/meatball soup for centuries, a few tweaks on her recipe and you have the soup that has fed the Jensen side of the family as far back as can be remembered….

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Our family didn’t put a green pepper in.  We didn’t do that because some members of the family tended to get an over-acid stomach from green peppers…so that was left out.

Then there’s the matter of garlic.  As you know, one of the secrets to “Happy wife, happy Life” is remembering matching food means matching breath.

When I make up a huge pot of vegetable soup, that’s basically all I eat for three or four days.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The miracle part is that I don’t put on weight.

You see, I put in meatballs.

Just get the leanest ground meat you can and mix it up like you were going to make meatballs.  A little binder is needed.  I have used cornmeal (so-so), flour (meh), and here lately I’ve been using oatmeal which isn’t as bad as you’d think.

I have tried the Red (or was it Bob’s?) Mill oat flour, but that isn’t the same.  That tasted more like the filler they used in the ground beef “hamburgers” in school lunch programs back before hamburgers were more meat than extended.

Three other ingredients in the meatballs:  A whipped egg seems to work (mixed into the meatball mixing) along with a shake or two of Worcestershire sauce.

So far, it sounds like with these modest additions and tweaks, I ought to lose some weight.

But, Now Comes the Fried Cheese Sandwich

With something as simple as a fried cheese sandwich, you’d think that there would be some universal agreement on the basics.  You know, like “Here’s what’s in a FCS…

There are, after all, only two ingredients.  Yet, here we go:  Some people like a fried cheese on rye.  I like a fried cheese on thick-sliced French.  Or, since there’s not a good bakery close, I just use the Sunbeam jumbo Texas Toast which is almost an inch thick per slice.  We don’t do WonderWimp.

Elaine and I have our differences on cheese.

Cheese is very bad for you.  Clogs arteries, makes my doctor cranky, but there’s not a real clear link between dietary fat and cholesterol levels…or, at least there’s some discussion of the point.

Which is why we’re still doing the fried cheese sandwiches.  Elaine’s partial to Tillamook Cheddars (yellow or light).  I’m  more the stringy cheese sort which means provolone or mozzarella.

After a half-dozen meals of “soup and sandwich” I notice that friend cheese is getting boring so I might change up to a cheese quesadilla. No need for stringy cheese here:  I load up the tortillas with a 4 or 5-cheese “Mexican blend.”  Elaine’s off doing the artisan cheeses on hers.

As the healthy soup begins to run down, the creative juices start flowing in sandwich-making.

By the end of the huge pot of soup, the liquid is more like an appetizer to an industrial-strength sandwich.  We’re talking three slices of bread, sliced ham, sliced turkey, sliced provolone, dipped in an egg batter and pan-fried.

Websites like Macheesmo seem to believe that Gouda (a Dutch cheese) and mayo are somehow involved.  But don’t get suckered into that.

You just want a ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich on the inside with the outside being more like French toast.


With the passing of the full moon, eclipse, and all that, we’re reminded that the end of winter is coming sooner than later.

When we click back into warmer weather the menu change begins.

The BBQ will again be the center of cooking:  Whatever the meat is, a salad, and a couple of times a week a potato.  All this grand, glorious, and HOT comfort food will get shoved back into the recipe list until next year.

The Litmus Test

I picked up a roll of  ANZESER pH Indicator Litmus Test Paper Strip Roll, 0 – 14 For Water Urine And Saliva – 5 Meters a couple of weeks back and I’ve been happily peeing on it ever since.

Been a fair amount of “stuff” on the web I’ve been reading about how you don’t want your body to be overly acidic.

An article in Cure Today back in 2015 put it this way:

“Cancer cells thrive in acidity (low pH), but not in alkalinity (high pH), so a diet high in alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables that also limits acidic foods, such as those from animal products, will raise blood pH levels and create an environment in the body that discourages cancer growth.”

Worth your time to read the whole article over here.

There’s also an article on the Holistic Pharmacist website at this line where they discuss the idea that highly acidic people are more likely to catchg colds and flu.

Since the flu going around this year is killing people, seemed to me to be a useful PROCESS to:

  1. Figure out my earlier pH readings  (acidic, but I was feeling great!)
  2. Lower those to slightly basic/alkaline with more veggies and drinking a LOT more water.
  3. Also been taking both Turmeric as well as Optimized Saffron..which has helped the pH.

Of course, chemical prophylaxis is not enough.  So, when Elaine and I did some shopping Wednesday in town, we seriously got after the cart with alcohol wipes and we scrubbed when we got home.  No point taking chances.

I’ve got plans to do some personal testing next time I feel a cold coming on.  *(neither of us has had one in years)

That’s because while conventional medical wisdom is that zinc is useful to fight off colds and such, I also found in my research (places like here) that zinc is strongly alkaline.

Which really gets down to the personal research question:  When the med school people talk about the good zinc does for colds and such, how sure are they that it’s the zinc?

Because it occurs to me that maybe it’s just the strong alkaline operation of zinc.  And in which case, I could pop a couple of Tums and…well, you see the question.

This isn’t medical advice, but I do confess to asking questions without a license!

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Did We Hold Macular Degeneration at Bay?

Health:  Thanks to the Outlook crash (don’t ask me about 2016 yet…) I wasn’t able to get hold of my friend Dr. D.  BUT, as long-time followers of this column may remember from long ago, Elaine a highly experimental -DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME – treatment of herself with red/super red/near infrared light in an eye that was diagnosed a few years back with age-related macular degeneration.  (Doctor D, please call, btw!)

Wednesday, we went to the eye doctor.  Naturally, our question was “How’s the ARMD doing?”

It’s gone.


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Her corrected vision in that eye is a little better than 20/40 now and it hasn’t changed (deteriorated) a bit since 2014.  The other eye (not ARMD) had a tiny prescriptive change – but so minor as to not even be worth new glasses!

This does not mean it Elaine was cured – because we do not make medical claims around here.  She just isn’t presenting ARMD anymore.  BUT what she has now is diagnosed as a small epiretinal membrane wrinkle.  I’m thinking (and no doctor!) that this may be a residual of the treatment.  Better than ARMD?  Hell yeah.

Doesn’t mean she’s picking off squirrels at half a mile, though.  Doc says the wrinkle might be treatable later on/some day (years down the road).  Still,  20/40 in the “bad eye” and 20/20 corrected in the good one is just dandy.

My point is sharing this (*arguably good) news is so you can keep your eye out (sicken pun, huh?) for the coming ARMD treatments using specific light frequencies and pulse rates.


But if anyone asks, we are both happy that it’s working out so well!  Maybe it was just a misdiagnosis (From two doctors?  Two saying dry AMD?) in the first several studies several years ago. Or, maybe as the ARMD improved, things didn’t go quite go “back to factory settings.”

But frankly, we will take good news, either way.

My own experience with deep red/NIR accounts for, I believe, about one – if not two – lines of improvement on my operative eye, too.  Remember my adventures with a dislocated IOL and having the multiple surgeries to get back to seeing again?

After a retinal detachment and a long tapering treatment with prednisone, I was back to 20-30 as of 10 days ago.  My detachment was gone but when I don’t do the IR/NIR eye treatment (with eyes closed, through the eyelids) the eye deteriorates back to 20/35 to 20/40.

May not seem like much, but trust me when I tell you, that difference is experientially HUGE.

What can you do?  Have your eye care professional track low level laser light therapy (LLLT) in PubMed where you can find articles like this one:

Photostimulation of mitochondria as a treatment for retinal neurodegeneration.

Sounds like medicalese for “Red/NIR light may be good for the retina” to us.  And check out what the abstract says here:

“…Potent neuroprotective effects have been demonstrated in various models of retinal damage, by red/NIR light, with limited data from human studies showing its ability to improve visual function. Improved neuronal mitochondrial function, increased blood flow to neural tissue, upregulation of cell survival mediators and restoration of normal microglial function have all been proposed as potential underlying mechanisms of red/NIR light.”

You won’t find more solid believers than the two of us here in the Outback.  Just sorry that the technology evolution in the U.A. has to start with cadaver studies and then come to market somewhere other than America (Canada and Europe are ahead in testing).  Oh well…wanted to pass it on, though.

There is hope for solid ARMD treatment coming!


Long IR is what campfires put out in their dying phase.  Maybe ARMD is one of those diseases from too much time in front of other than a good campfire, you think?

Then We Went Shopping

Going anywhere with Elaine is always one series of remarkable coincidences after another.

She went to the deli counter at the local Brookshire’s to get some sliced ham and some roast beef slices for sandwiches (yum…French dip!).  While she did that, I grabbed the cart (partly full from the veggie sections) and wandered off to stock up on things I’d remembered from the list.

While she was waiting to be served, a woman  walked up to her and asked her if she could read the expiration data on some deli item.  I laughed to myself:  What at the odds!??  Eyes still dilated bigger than  an owl, wearing sunglasses, and this lady out of the blue wants her to read fine print!

But, it gets better.

I take the cart while the ladies were gabbing – by now the woman at the counter was roped into expiration date hunting – figuring I could get most things while that was in progress.  Soups, meats, dairy…you know the list.

Then, I headed back to see Elaine (nowhere to be seen).  But, the lady who was talking to her at the counter came up to me.

Have you seen your wife?  She took my cart!”

At this, we began a storewide search for Elaine.  Shortly later, I found here happily shopping and putting things in the stranger’s cart.

All’s well that ends well:  I put the deli items in our cart.  Elaine rolled back to the deli counter where the other lady was waiting.  And they had a fine laugh about it.

I call it “distracted shopping.”

I fear for people’s lives if Elaine figures out how to text while shopping.

St. Patrick’s in the Meat Department

Getting off the ranch  is a rare enough thing that I enjoy doing the shopping.

Suddenly, which I was walking past meats to dairy, a gruff male voice says “Give me your wallet!” which sticking something in my side.

I’m marred and therefore broke, Kevin, and all I have is a throw-done phone because I’m not stupid…”

For a half second I wondered what I’d do if that was not Kevin  from the meat section…but it was.

We chatted about important man topics (meaty subjects, mostly).  But then when I tossed a big corned beef in the cart he stopped me with some really useful advice:

You didn’t really mean to get a ‘tip cut’ did you?”

Ure put on his best “Oh….er…..” but he saw through it.

Stepping over to a huge slab of beef he said “See this point end?  This is the point.  Down at the other end is the “flat cut.”  Unless you want to do a lot chewing…always remember to get the FLAT CUT CORNED BEEF.”

This is why I like going to the store.  When you live in a small burg long enough, you get to know the people you’re buying from.  They cut things just the way you like them – and they give you little tidbits like this without expecting anything in return.

Damn fine shopping experience.  Oh, and I got to keep the throw-down phone.

Well, off to start working on Peoplenomics for this weekend.  While the market won’t likely (and knock on wood here) crash any earlier than 55 days out (or longer), we are starting to work up the best employment strategies for them times ahead.

And now that the worst of global climate change has passed.

My older sister pointed out that it was warmer last week in Edmonton, Alberta, than in Texas.  Something of a joke in Canada.

But if we ever get as serious about hockey as we are about oil, cheerleaders, or BBQ, we could roll over most of Canada in a weekend.

Restless Legs?

Last but not least, as we were checking out, who do you suppose got in the same line as us?  Yep, the cart-jacking victim.

And it was there we had a conversation about what’s in carts…the woman had some quinine (tonic).  Early for gin and tonic?

No – she takes it for restless leg syndrome.  But when I looked at the restless leg syndrome foundation website, turns out that quinine for RLS is associated with a higher death rate.

Still it was in some health letter she subscribed to, so Ure on your own to sort out of the truth.  IF your truth involves gin and tonic, what time did you want us over?

More than anything, Wednesday was like a cloud of surreal events.  Kinda like beaming down to a strange planet…

Write when you get rich,

Coping: With Workshop Organizing

Health/Environment:  As the year draws to a close, a survey of what we’ve gotten done over the course of the year makes for an interesting cup of tea.

On the plus side, we haven’t missed a column, health is good, Peoplenomics has been spectacularly good at being on the “right side” of the market.  And we got a non-fiction book done.  Along the way, the ranch has never looked better, and we’re more than adequately prepped for what could be snow here Monday and again about this time next week.

Still, there are always projects and a discussion and one of the ways to make these all go easier is to organize your shop so your spouse can understand it. Spouses LOVE an organized shop and have been known to roll their eyes and look around their kitchens when males discover a workplace can be organized.  Fortunately, they often reward such “good behavior” or so we’ve told.

(*Continues below)


Don’t have a shop?

If you live in a 300 square foot chicken coop, you don’t need a shop.  But, as you mature and want to take “life into your own hands” there is nothing like a shop to do it in.

When comes to prepping, I’m a huge believer that personal skills evolved as a hobby will be most useful if you ever get into a prepping—> recovery environment.

Just as an example, and especially if you’re in the snowier parts of the country, it is NEVER too late to get a pint of hot-set PVC glue, a can of fresh purple primer, odd lengths of PVC, several of each size fitting imaginable.

Over at Lowes, you can pick up pretty good-sized storage boxes; the sort made for the back of small trucks.  When you make up a quick dolly out of some 2-by-4’s and spare casters, these are fairly easy to kick under the workbench.  Importantly, they give the illusion of being organized.

To be sure, they’re not.  Still, we have three such boxes:  One is full of electrical parts.  If you need a junction box, switch, timer, or anything else “sparky” this is the first place to look.

Besides the plumbing and electrical boxes, there’s one devoted too the very best of small wood project odds and ends.  A lot of people hold to the “one board foot rule” but, as a practical matter, it’s the smaller pieces that are most useful.

Say you’re propping up a ladder and you need a 6-by-6 pad of 1/2-inch wood (*ply would be best for this ap, less apt to split):  Under the 1-board foot rule, there’d be nothing at hand.  So, I figured a nice box of “the small stuff” would be useful.

Organizing hardware is another horrible task.  In generally, there is an area for each of the hardware items, but nothing is a hard & fast rule when laying out your shop.

We have one set of shelves devoted to the miscellaneous stuff:  need some galvanized table leg brackets?  A few hinges?  Maybe a nice long lag bolt…or even some of the larger washers.  Here’s where you go.

I’ve noticed that as hardware gets smaller, it gets even ornerier about getting properly classified.  So there is a roll-around wire rack with shoe box-sized containers with labels.  Things like caulking, a small collection of pulleys, weather-stripping, and even a small 1,000 block and tackle…tiny rig that I’ve never used but once.  It’s an example of how tool sluts like to spend first and fix later.

Fasteners have their own area:  A wooden box-like affair that holds a world-class collection of screws.  As much as possible, we have standardized on Philips head because they are much less prone to having their heads slip out and damaging the work.  Frankly, people who are stuck in “slotted screw land” don’t know much about screwing…so to speak.

We have four roll-around for the decent collection of hand tools.  This started off as one of those $100 Sears Project Centers and first thing you know, we had four.

The top drawer of each as a special purpose:  One of ours is devoted to orphaned sockets.  By the time you sneak up on 69, you’ll find that odd sockets – long separated from their sets – have wound up in your tools.  Also in that top drawer are orphaned Hex wrenches.  Sometimes I think these things migrate in from the woods.  Mentally label this your “twisty things” depository.

The next roll-around top drawer is “squeezy things” which are the hand tools that you grip to get work down.  Pliers, adjustable pliers, gas pliers, slip-joint pliers, Channel-Locks, diagonal cutters (we don’t call ’em “dikes” anymore to avoid pissing of the Dutch and a certain gender group).

Another top drawer is a catch-all for things that aren’t pure twisty or squeezy:  An example would be an eclectic selection of belt wrenches.  Plumbers have ’em and so do diesel mechanics where a variant of the tool constitutes an oil filter wrench.  Sink wrenches ought to be in here, too…again they went out for drinks with the saws last night…

The fourth top draw is for jewelry-making and lapidary goods.  In this drawer you’d find a ring-sizing set, a ring mandrel, assorted small chisels for breaking fine stones, and very small vices.  Eventually, things like jeweler’s dop will live in here, too.  If you don’t know what cabbing of stones is, you won’t need the dop or the dopping sticks.  And if do away with those, you can do with a small diamond saw…

The big drawers have “specials” loosely by category.

One of the drawers in a roll-around is called “saws.” This is where the hack saw, blades, saber saw, blades, miter saw, coping saw, blades, and drywall saw all hang out.

Under that is “saws and bigger” which is where a circ saw (and blades) lives next to a wandering belt sander that hasn’t found a community, yet.

I’ve suggested moving in with the palm sanders over in the woodworking/air tools cabinet, or move into something comfortable in Blow Molded Boxes Land.  BMBL is under the center bench and everything birthed in a BMB lives there.  Router, Zip saw, planer, router, router bits case, And on…

Back to the roll-arounds, there’s a welding drawer that’s one of my favorites:  Tips for 0.30 and 0.35 MIG welding, assorted Fluxcore and plain, long-arm gloves, hand shield, welding pliers (they didn’t fit in “squeezy’s”) and such.

The Air Tools drawer is one of my favorites.  A small die-grinder, air-powered file, air-powered metal saw, lots of adapters, tire gauge, and on goes that one.  A fun drawer.  Air ratchet and impact set is in here, too.  Just gobs of fun…

These are just where a few things are here, but it’s to point out that there can never be too many drawers (you’ll fill them all up)_ and you can never have too much bench space (it fills up, too).

Bottom line:  Other than a trip to Lowes for hot set and PVC pipe and cutters and joints and… there’s no better salve for a relationship than a spotlessly clean shop.

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Crooked “Holiday” Thinking

Health and Environment:  This is a terrible morning.  Not because I have another week to go before my endodontic/walletectomy consultant can fix my bothersome tooth.  And, no, not because is snowed on a good part of the Northeast delivering the White Christmas. (Tho’ a nice touch…)

What makes it terrible is that it’s a short enough work-week to verge on uselessness.  Sure, the stock market will be open “regular hours” but the bond traders get to be the Long Island Expressway rush Friday by blowing out at 2 PM.  But, mainly thre week’s a drag because everyone’s “head” will be anywhere but “in the game.

In other words, for people in semi-routine jobs (planning, software, accounting, and that sort of thing), this will likely be the week with the highest error rates of the year and lowest quality output.  For a number of reasons…

(Continues below)


For one, people will be talking way too much.  I don’t mind a bit of social chit-chat, but from my time in the “cube farm” regions, often, the worst aspect of the job wasn’t the actual labor:  It was listening to boring, unwanted, time-wasting blatherspeak from people who just “have to share.

Gush not, bore not.

After-Christmas Grinchly of me?  Yeah, maybe.  But Ure’s truly is deadly-serious when working.  I am a work hard, play hard, study hard, focus, focus, focus type.  Even on Christmas morning, my to-do list and it had sixteen items on it. Of those, BTW, getting the turkey loaded for the bake was #12. I thought about putting “Relax” in as item #17 but thought it a bit OCD.

Sure, if you work at a job where “the score” doesn’t result in any change to your paycheck, chat away.  But in sales (my forte) there was (and is) ALWAYS something to do that can bump-up your batting average – and that batting average is directly related to income.

I could go on about time-wasters at work (and how everyone’s compensation should be tied to business success) but I’d be preaching to an empty church.  Especially today.

Second main reason this week’s a waste has to do with late arrivals, early departures, and ridiculously long lunches.  In many companies, what is nominally an 8 hour work day turns into a couple of hours at best.

Third?  Well, let’s just say my list goes on for quite a ways, but I don’t to break your holiday cheer, if I haven’t already.

Instead, I offer a modest proposal:


Idea’s simple enough:  Since no one really works (except fire, police, medical, military, and such) why not just close down the whole country for 9-days at the end of the year?


No mail.  (Means no bills will arrive)

No Banking.  (Means no hold-ups and ATM’s will run out, which would remind people that there is only a fairytale appearance of unlimited plenty in the world without people actually working. Works gets a terrible bad-rap from the lazy and the young…if you can distinguish.)

No regular work: (Means there will be HUGE savings on gasoline and diesel and the roads will be vacant for all but recreational travelers.  Could infrastructure last 4% longer?

Sure,, there will be problems with it:  But what’s the point of Making America Great Again if all we get is another 2,200 hour work-year and a few crumbs for the effort?

I have a sneaking suspicion that like the mythical Social Security increases (all but $10-bucks of which was eating up by Medicare going up for us), when comes down to it, time-off is a lot more useful to people than an office party.

I mean, if we want to talk entitlements, this is something the LLL (lousy liberal left) ought to throw its arms around.  Why, two 9-day National Vacations a year (one over the week of the 4th of July, the other between Christmas and New Years) would give all those down-trodden working poor, a chance to claim one of the real prizes in Life. Time off.

On the other hand, the RRR (repugnant repulsive right) could go for the idea, too…since it would end all the vacation discussions in comp packages and would let RRR’s claim it’s all thanks to their party. In other words, if the idea takes off, both parties will claim credit, and if it doesn’t work?  The other party is to blame.  It’s a winning political football.

I know you have many “happy returns” to get out of the way over lunch, or when you do the 4 o’clock slide today, so we’re tightly focused.

Think about it: National Holidays: Each  9 days in length, twice a year.  18-days of people time.

America is almost 250-years old. Isn’t it about time we start acting like dignified adults?  And take more time off?

Holiday Communication Overhead

If you were thinking of calling us to tell me how your holiday went, here’s my thought-process  so you’re warned in advance:

If you had a great time, I will ask you: “So, why weren’t we invited?”

And if you had a crappy time, I’ll ask  “Why are you telling me this?  I wasn’t there…so why does it matter?

Hope Elaine answers, not me.

I believe ALL communications overhead by 2/3rd’s by applying “Ure’s Law of Direct Communications.”

This law says “Only deal with the person you’re dealing with – NOT THIRD PARTIES.”  Jeez, that’d be the end of FB, wouldn’t it?  Ibid tweets.

Under Ure’s Law, you could call and say “I had a very nice Christmas and I appreciate the check you sent…”

But,, my patience ends with conversations that go…  “I had a very nice Christmas except my (brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, aunt so-and-so, and Trump and….whozzit… did this…and THEY (someone else on the list) did that and...Did I tell you about so & so? OMG they….”  (See all the excess verbiage?  Verbiage is time.  Time is money.  You can figure it from there.)

A lawyer would third-party references hearsay?  Circle back to “If it mattered, you’d invite us…OR.  If I wasn’t there, does it matter?  Doubly- especially if I have direct contact with the mentioned people being reported on?”

My life is complicated enough dealing with people one-on-one.  Spare me third-party damage reports…Let’s you and me focus on the two key people in our conversations and emails:

You and me.

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Christmas Dinner Topics

Survival:  Sitting at the dinner table for a Christmas dinner can be one of the most socially-awkward times of the year.  All depends on how Ure relations are with the other people at the table.

Since Elaine and I are “dispersed parents” we don’t have but ourselves to entertain over Christmas, though we may jump up to a casino not far away during the nominal “workweek” between Christmas and New Years to visit with friends there are enjoy the company of other grown-ups.

Gone, for many families, is the joy of having a dad (or mom) set the tone of a dinner conversation that includes at least have a dozen aunts and uncles coming by with their collected families for a solid dose of turkey and everything else.  If you have such an event planned, enjoy the hell out of it:  It’s another American value on the chopping block.  That said, we made a short list of topics we’d suggest if things get a little too “calm” that is sure to start fist-fights or yelling matches.

(Continues below)



Here are some of our suggested conversation starters:

Turn off your phone.  This is a family dinner.

People today don’t seem to understand that there are two kinds of relationships between people:  The e-lationship and the RE-lationship.

Understand the difference is key:  e-lationships are dandy when they are based on a RElationship, but the majority are not.  e-lationships are sick and sad while RElationships are, well, real.

If you have a tough time distinguishing, ask a simple question:

Will whoever you are ignoring me for PayPal you $20 bucks right this instant?  Ask them….let me see if they are a “friend.”

We tend to forget that while ultra-sociability indeed works for many thing (mainly to engage brain cells) the reality is that probably 90 percent of “friends” would never share a dime with you.

I have a DIRTY SECRET:  I think if you put half of online “workgroups” on Facebook, American Industry could save billions.  That’s because brains are more evenly distributed than we like to believe.  We – all of us – constitute the middle of the Bell Curve.

If the dinner is still progressing, ask an intelligent “news-based” question to gauge the mental capacity of your audience.

Uncle Dave, you fancy yourself a military affairs whiz.  So, what is your assessment of Status-6?   (Uncle Dave needs to read Urban and here.)

Aunt Cathy, what percent of wheat sold in the USA is genetically modified?”  (Aunt Cathy needs to read here for 2014 data.)

Cousin Dick: Did the F.C. C. just sell us out by ending Net Neutrality?” If Cousin Dick needs to look this up, he doesn’t understand the “yes we want no bananas please” rule of labeling proposed laws and rules.  In the words of Carlin the Great:  “It’s all bullshit and it’s all bad for you.

Now we get into the really verboten stuff:

Grandpa, I’m not clear on something and maybe you  could offer some perspective for me:  What’s the difference between prostitution and marriage?”

There is only one correct answer here:  The tax break

Grandma, did you ever have any affairs?”

Not that we care…but it’s a show-stopper and would make a dynamite YouTube video.

Grandpa, did you ever screw around on Grandma?

We know Grandma deserves equal-time.  Again, great video footage.

If you’ve gotten this far and think these are serious suggestions, guess again.  They work us up to a point.

In our family, the Dinner Table was the holy of holies where generations can lay out their differences and defend their actions. Elaine didn’t have such an upbringing but has seen it with envy.

What you’re really after -beyond a meal –  is a clearer understanding of just what it is that one generation has in mind, either in reaction to, or to clean up after, what the generation before it left undone or messed-up.

It’s just as well we aren’t with our offspring this year.  The new generation doesn’t seem to have contributed much.  Cancer hasn’t been wiped out, HIV still kills, and superficiality rules.  They’re on what’s basically a free ride.

Thinking about this: The Internet started in August of 1991.  So it will be 27-years old this coming summer.  Score?  Millennials zero.  Apps and games don’t count.

And the ubiquitous computer chip?  1961 by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. So we’re….uh….57-year into the chips in 2018.

George, Ure being mean to Millennials…”

Awe shit.  OK, did they invent transistors?  No.  1947 for the PNP type.  You go look up NPN’s if you’re interested.  Seventy-one years!!!!!

Microwaves?  Radarange went on the market in 1946.  72-years.

Television?  1927….so that technology will turn 91 next year.

Still think I’m being too hard on the poor little social just-us whiners?

Try ABS BRAKES.  1970.

First Trojan condoms?  1919.

Invention of tampons?  (with an applicator) 1940.

I’m  getting to a point about Ure family dinners, back in the day.  They were encyclopedic, laid out the history that got us to the present, and in a way tasked each of us to find a way to put shoulder to the wheel of history.

They were all like this:  Sitting down at the dinner table was like the gourmet version of Trivial Pursuit.  My dad, who was called the “walking encyclopedia” at the fire house (“…ask Cap!“) was prepped by careful study of the latest Time Magazine to arrive at the house.  His “smoking chair”, a white leather chair that seemed immune to Camel smoke, was occupied immediately upon delivery of the journal.

When times got better, other publications can along like the old Dow Jones National Observer.

But there’s a key lesson I’ve never forgotten about my dad’s view of the news.

You don’t really need to listen to the radio (all snooze, all the time) stations because they do a crappy job of deeply informing people.  In order to really get to the guts of trends, NPR does better, but even here, radio is quite time-constrained.

Instead, you might pick up a good general news magazine today and pass on the manic banter that passes for “informed” in the “inform ation age.”  Frequency is no substitute for depth.

Read TimeNewsweek, and U.S. News (plus maybe The Atlantic) and read ’em cover-to-cover this week before you go the family dinner.  Toss in a check of the year-to-date rainfall and a look at the 30-day extended weather forecast, and your general education credits to earn a spot in the conversation will be earned.

Toss in short, but interesting 30-second summaries of key concepts from whatever your field of work is, and you’d be a welcome guest at any table; least-wise among Ure kind of people.

Turn off the phone and remember:  e-lations are mostly worthless.  But a feast of food for the soul with your relations?

That can’t be beat.

e-lationships are shallow and wide.  (Like San Francisco Bay)  Relationships are deep and narrow.  We’ve gone crazy on the former and we’re failing on the latter.

In our rush to “Be first” we’ve gone off into the ditch on the real task of “Being best.”

Write when you get rich,