Friday, January 23, 2015

Mean Green

After a great deal of thought and deliberation I decided to buy a bike for my stay in Japan. If you're a frequent reader of this blog you'll know that I quite enjoy my time on two wheels. It is a little different here, though. Many more people bike and being an urban area, the distances are quite a bit less. So that merits a different kind of bike.

Check out this hog. I don't want you to feel intimidated, but Mean Green is pretty accurate. I mean, you gotta be pretty tough to pull off a front basket as awesome as that one. 


Let me run you through the feature list as well as the sweet mods I've already made. The super comfortable handlebars are perfect for someone about 6 inches shorter than me. The same goes for the seat post. You'll notice that the fenders were stock as well as the basket and headlight (which runs off the tire generator). The drivetrain has six sidewalk-shredding gears, operated by state of the art grip shifts. For convenience it has a full kickstand and rack in the rear and an integrated lock on the rear wheel.


Not pictured is the 100 yen store basket I zip-tied to the rear rack for additional cargo carrying options or the rear LED light (also 100 yen) for safety. 

In all seriousness, it's a pretty fun bike. Biking is totally different here. For starters, everybody doesn't hate cyclists like in the US. These pictures were taken in the bike storage area of our hotel. The fact that our hotel has that, and that it's full of bikes, should show that way more people bike here. It cuts my commute down by 2/3, which for me, is well worth it.

For a while I toyed with the idea of spending more and getting a nice folding bike. If I did that, I would want to try to take it home with me. I thought it would be useful to have in the car sometimes. Or I could leave it at the shipyard and use it when I had to buzz around. In the end, I knew it would be cheapest to just buy the cheapest bike I could. It's going to be fun, but come the end of spring, I'll be glad to be back to my bikes at home.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The View

One of the great things about our apartment is the view from the balcony. Whenever we hear a ship's horn (which is pretty frequent) Jerry turns and says "da boat!" At that point we usually have to go out and check it out.

Here are some of the pictures I've already taken. An advantage to swing shift is that I'm home during the day when all this is going on.

The other day the USS Lassen was pulling out.



This is a Japanese submarine. They are much smaller than US subs. I'm not sure what they use them for, but they have quite a few. I've seen up to five moored here at a time.


Here's a shot of Yokosuka from our hotel. The tall building to the right is the place we stayed in 2010. 

This is our hotel for this trip. So far it's working out great.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Yokoso Japan!

Here we are, living the dream once again. For better or worse, we're here for a while.


Our hotel room is great. It's more like an apartment than a hotel room. We're in a new building that claims to be "American Style" apartments. It's actually still a Japanese apartment with some American influences. (At every turn they love to point out how huge everything American is.) One of the major American influences is that our two bedroom is a palatial 770 square feet. Why do those fat Americans need so much space anyway? The Japanese influences are still pretty fun. The fridge is quite small, but that doesn't bother me. We have a drawer dishwasher that can't quite handle an entire meal's worth of dishes, and of course, the perennial favorite, the toilet seat with the control panel.


Our view is pretty tough to beat. Our room has balcony on two sides with four sliding glass doors to access it. Looking out across the way we can easily see the whole reason for our being out here, the George Washington. Closer in there is a nice assortment of US and Japanese ships. The night view is also great.

We are very near one of the local train stations, so every morning Jerry wants to go out onto the balcony and see the boats and trains move around.


Our transition here wasn't what I would call seamless. Jerry did pretty well on the flight, except for only sleeping about an hour. I can tell you, it was a blessed hour. Welcome peace, but short lived. Later Jerry slept a little on the bus ride, so by the time we were at the hotel he was about 20 hours awake with only about two hours nap. He was bouncing off the walls.


Since then we've still been trying to get some continuity. Of course, when you get here, you wake up at four or five every morning for a few days and we have been no exception. In my case, though, I'm working swing which translates to very little sleep. Jerry's been waking  up between five and seven am, and that's tough because nothing is open until like 10 here, so you can't really get anything done until he's starting to hit that nap time zone. In a few more days we'll all get aligned for more normal schedules.

I think Jerry will be happy to get to that point also. This has thrown him for a loop. Between sleep problems and being cooped up in some apartment that is not our house, this has been a little tough. Pretty regularly he asks about Jake and asks to go home. Disclaimer: We're not sure if he means home to the apartment, or home to home.  Today he broke Chelsea's glasses, for which she has no backup and one of the dishes provided by the hotel.


I think Jerry is a little exasperated. I know I am.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A New Project

The other day Chelsea and I were talking about hobbies, projects, and the sort. She said if she had as much going on as I do it would drive her crazy.

That being said, I'm here to tell you about one of my newer projects.

As you may know, this summer I took ownership of a mill and lathe for metal working. I've actually had dibbs on them for more than a year before that, but it took me a while to get them from Utah to Washington. Not only that, but once I got them to Washington, it took me four more months just to unload them from the trailer. The trailer is happy to have them out. They were heavy. Now, all I have to do is get some garbage out of the garage from the kitchen project, and the car will fit again.

So here are the machines:

The Mill:

The Lathe:


They are both made by Jet which is a great brand, but they are kind of old and need a little rehabilitation.

Now doesn't a machine rehab/rebuild sound like a great time? I thought so.

These machines belonged to my grandpa. He mentioned them to me several times before he died. I know that towards the end of his life he wanted to spend time using them but age was catching up with him. I know they were important to him and I know he hoped they would have a good home. Well, they do. Fortunately, I have many friends that I can rely on for help and advice.

That's it for the back story, so unless you're interested in the machines themselves, you'd better stop reading now. I'm going to go into some detail on the condition and plan for each machine.

Mill:
Table: 9.5" x 23.5"
Quill Travel: 5"
Column Travel: 12"
Spindle: R8
Available tooling: 1/2" shank end mill holder, some hold downs,
Current Condition: Rusty on unpainted surfaces, grimy, some homegrown motor tensioning,
Rehabs: General cleaning, liberal scotch-brite, basic lubrication
Upgrade Wish List: Keyless R8 drill chuck, center drills, basic R8 collet assortment, assorted end mills, 4" swivel milling vice, Android Digital Readout, Stepper Motor X-axis Power Feed, X-Y Feed Ball Screws,

Lathe:
Swing: 12"
Center Distance: 36"
Spindle Bore: 1-3/8"
Type: Gearhead, Benchtop
Available tooling: Quick change tool post, MT3 drill chuck (for tailstock), 3-Jaw chuck, 4-Jaw chuck, steady rest
Current Condition: Rusty on unpainted surfaces, ways are in rough shape, grimy, needs new belts, motor wiring is pretty messed up, bent gear selector pin
Rehabs: General cleaning, liberal scotch-brite, basic lubrication, new belts, new gear selector pin, Quick change tool post cleanup, disassemble & clean apron
Upgrade Wish List: Android Digital Readout

Both machines mount to the tables in the pictures. The lathe table is much larger than the lathe. It was centered on the table, but I want to shift it towards the front to make it a little more ergonomic. I plan to use the open space on the back of the table to mount a bench grinder for making lathe tools (and maybe prepping the crazy hard ball screw).

It's going to be a great project. Thanks Grandpa!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

(Apparently) Award Winning Chili

This week I was surprised to win my office chili cook off. I've climbed the ranks over the last three years winning third, second, and finally first. So many people liked it that it was also People's Choice. I even got two fun trophies. It's especially surprising because I wasn't planning on entering this year. I felt like I had too much going on outside work, but last week the office administrator came and begged me to enter given my past success.


Now I wish I could say that this was an old family recipe and that it's been handed down through the generations. That it has morphed and perfected over the decades and now is finally ready to be a champion chili.

But that's not true.

A few years ago we were planning a church chili cook off with the scout troop. I had to participate so I got on the Google Machine and clicked a few times. Pretty soon I came up with this one:

Emily's Chipotle Chile

Now, I'm always a fan of chipotle flavored foods so I thought it was a good candidate to start with. I made a couple of small modifications, too, so I'll put down my modified recipe. The biggest change comes from the fact that kidney beans suck, while black beans are delicious. Black beans also fit the chipotle theme better in my opinion. (Of course, all this discussion on beans is purely academic anyway, seeing that real chili should be bean free.)

Anyway, here we go.

Tom's Chipotle Chili

  • 1 lb Ground Hot Italian Sausage
  • 2 lbs Ground Beef
  • 1/2 lb Thick Cut Pepper Bacon, Diced
  • 5 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Coriander
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 (28 oz) Can Diced Tomatoes (Not Drained)
  • 1 (15 oz) Can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 (14 oz) Can Black Beans
  • 2 Tbsp Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, Minced
  • Salt/Pepper to taste


  1. Cook sausage, bacon, and ground beef in a large pot over medium-high heat until lightly browned and crumbly. 
  2. When the meat has released its grease, and has begun to brown, drain off accumulated grease, and season with chili powder, cumin, and coriander. 
  3. Cook and stir for 1 minute until fragrant.
  4.  Stir in the garlic and onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 4 minutes.
  5. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chipotle peppers, salt, and pepper. 
  6. Bring to a simmer and cook on low for 30-60 minutes.
  7. Find some sour cream and shredded cheese QUICK!
  8. At this point, the original recipe says to put it in a slow cooker and cook for 8-10 hours. I think it's good right away. To be fair, though, the chili in the contest had spent about 4 hours slow cooking in the crock pot.

    In my recipe I also upped the chipotle peppers from 2 Tsp to 2 Tbsp. This is not a mistake.

    I hope you like it.

    Saturday, September 06, 2014

    The Age Index

    Disclaimer: Today I'd like to explain an idea I had. It involves math and used cars. If that combination doesn't intrigue you, then feel free to pass on this one. On the other hand, if you'd like to hear what I think is an easier way to evaluate used cars, then read on.

    On to business.

    First, a confession. I spend way too much time looking at Autotrader.com. I'm kind of like a space-aged version of Joe Dirt in that respect. (Fortunately minus the mullet.) I'm not aimless in my search, though. Sometime next year I'd like to buy a newer truck. When shopping for a new car it can be difficult to compare vehicles when you have so many factors that play into the price. Is it better to have an older car with lower miles or a newer car with higher miles? If you ask five different people that question you are likely to get six or seven different answers. So I wanted to find a way to "normalize" the age and mileage factors to make it easier to understand equivalency.

    When you're looking for cars the main info that's displayed is the price, the mileage, and the year. Using the year and the mileage, you can calculate this Age Index and it gives you a score that you can use for comparison. This is kind of on the same level saying to yourself, "Here's a 2010 with 56,000 miles. That's 14,000 a year." The Age Index gives you a tighter score. So here it is:



    Where the age is in years (single or double digits), and only the thousands are used for the mileage. For example, my Landcruiser is a 1994 with 220K miles:


    So in that case the Age Index is 90.9. You will find out that that's pretty good. My CR-V only scored only 58.8 which in my opinion is just under what I would take to be the minimum (more on that later). So even though my CR-V is nicer and newer than the Landcruiser, it's got a much worse Age Index. Notice that this only works for used cars. If you apply it to a new car, the whole thing goes to zero because the age is zero.

    So what's a good Age Index? Well, this idea is still in it's infancy and I've only compared about 50 vehicles, but I fee like a good Age Index minimum is 60. What about maximum? Well, in my limited search I came up with only one or two that were above 150. For a five year old car to have an Age Index above 150, it would have to have less than 33,000 miles. Very low and very rare. Realistically you should be able to find them under 100. So, seeking an Age Index between 60 and 100 will put you in a good situation.

    Interesting patterns

    So as I've been looking at this, I've looked a lots of different sets of trucks. I made up tables of Toytota Tundras, Ford F150s and Dodge Ram trucks. I also compared these numbers for the Puget Sound area and Salt Lake Valley. I did this because I wondered if trucks were cheaper in one place or the other. For now I'll only talk about the Toyota Tundra comparison. Here are the two most interesting patterns I've noticed.

    1. Trucks are slightly cheaper in the Salt Lake Valley. They're not enough cheaper to justify a trip out there, especially considering...
    2. The Age Indexes are MUCH lower down there. Puget Sound numbers were pretty consistently above 60 with a few below. But, in Salt Lake, only a couple were even above 50. (Salt Lake is also a much harsher environment for vehicles considering road salting and much greater temperature variations.)

    So there you go. The Age Index. Like I said, this idea is in its infancy. Next time you are looking for a car, maybe you could use this and maybe it will even help. Please leave some feedback in the comments.
    Thanks for reading!

    Saturday, June 07, 2014

    First Camping Trip

    This weekend we had the kiddo's first camping trip. It was short, kind of impulsive, and we all survived.


    I say impulsive because we only decided Thursday night that we were going. At the last minute we were able to get reservations at Twanoh State Park. I've been here a few times before but only to hike on their little trail. This time we camped and even went to the little beach they have.

    It was a great time, but it wasn't without it's pains. Fortunately, Little Man was unsuccessful in his numerous attempts at falling into the fire. He made up for it by falling off the bench a few times, though. When we finally started heading for bed I was surprised to find that it was almost 10pm. The kid seemed to have a limitless supply of energy. He was constantly egged on by Jake, who is always skiddish during the first night of a camping trip.

    That supply of energy kicked in again at about 5:30am. This time, though, we couldn't get him to calm down. We were in a walk-in camp site so there was about six tents within a hundred feet. Not wanting to be on the receiving end of mob violence, we decided to head out on a drive until a more reasonable hour. From Twanoh we drove to Lake Cushman and explored a little. We tried to find the yurt we stayed in a couple of years ago on New Year's Eve but couldn't. Guess who fell asleep.



    Around 8:00am we got back to camp, made breakfast, and packed up. Then it was down to the beach. Twanoh State Park is supposed to have the warmest saltwater beach in the state. Of course, that's not saying much here in Washington. The beach was packed with kayaks. It looked like there was some kind of kayak event or classes going on. Everyone in the campsite also had kayaks. We felt a little out of place. The water was nice, though. Last year at scout camp I learned that Hood Canal water was actually pretty nice.


    This was also Little Man's first experience in more water than the tub. He seemed to like it. Now we just have to get him into some swimming lessons.



    This time I forgot more stuff than I have in a long time. And not just foofy extra stuff that you don't really need. I forgot flashlights, pillows, and paper towels. Well, the pillows are foofy stuff you don't need (Chelsea disagrees), but flashlights are too basic. I didn't even realize it until it was starting to get dark. Duh. 

    We were back at the house by 1:00pm Saturday. Since we had to leave after work yesterday, it was less than a 20 hour camping trip. Still worth it, though.