Archive for March, 2018

I Could be Reacher

I have just finished reading two Jack Reacher books back to back.  It has given me a new vision of what I could be.

While I am not 6 foot 5 inches, I do weigh almost the same as him and I have a similar military background (well I was an Air Cadet)

So I have been practicing my moves in case I come across evil guys on the streets of Courtenay.  I will wait for them to try and punch me but will quickly duck and spin and kick out their knee and then head butt them into submission.  I will grant you the head butting kind of gives me a head ache just thinking about it, but how hard could it be?

I can just see myself wandering around town saving innocent people for no remuneration.  Possibly putting my life at risk for people I never knew before and would never would know again.

Wait a minute, did I say no remuneration?

Well maybe I will just finish the book that I need for my book club.  All Quiet on the Western Front.

We shall see.

The Gun Deck Complete

You all know that as I building a model, I come to significant stages.  The keel and the hull and the framing of certain decks.

There are steps where I cannot go back later after the framing and decking is complete to add the guns and oven and pumps.  I must add these details before I can move on to the top deck frames and decking.  These are elements that would be added much later in a real ship, but you add when you can.

I spent the last month or so turning guns on the lathe, building carriages, fixing the recoil lines and the eye bolts that secure the guns to the hull.  Adding the oven and certain support frames.

Today I finished the main gun deck.  26 eighteen pounder guns.  There will be more guns on the upper decks.

I include a picture of a gun and carriage that was left over.  I have learned, by sad experience, to produce more than I need because accidents happen.   This time it did not, so this will go into the pile of leftovers,  that sadly no model builder will ever use.

The lines or ropes that connect the guns to the hull are the recoil braces that hold the gun after it has been fired.

In reality you would never see all of them in the firing positions on both sides except in an exhibition as they sailed into port or on a model.  But it is traditional in model displays.

I am sorry about the second picture.  I really should clean up the workbench before taking a picture, but this is what my shop looks like.

I actually finished this early today (4 PM) , and said, well I have been working to this for a couple of month’s what do I do now.  Went upstairs and helped prepare dinner.



My Course on Cosmology

Last fall at Elder College (a series of courses run at North Island College) I attended a great class on our Solar System.  The teacher is a retired professor who taught at Stanford.  Great guy who is enthusiastic about teaching.  Loved his class and even bored my kids and grand kids with a short lesson (which they shrugged through).

This term I took his far more detailed and difficult course on Cosmology or the history of the Universe.  Start with the big bang and move from there.  How stars are formed and galaxies and lots of weird stuff like dark matter and dark energy.

24 senior students in the class and we are stunned.  Obviously too big a subject to pick up at the age of 70 but fascinating.  Einstein wrote about how space and gravity curves light which is why we can still see today with Hubble telescope remnants of the Big Bang 13.7 billion years back in time and distance.

Today we discussed black holes and Quasars.  (well discussed is relative, mostly Joel did the talking)  Black holes are thought to be massive stars that shrank due to gravity but unlike most stars did not blow up.  As they cooled slowly they became so dense that the gravity pulled in everything and was so strong photons (light) could not escape.  Hence why they are black.

Other stars are captured in a spiral of death around black holes and as they sped up they heated up and gave off a massive burst of energy.  A sort of a last SOS before they were sucked into the black hole.  We see those bursts as Quasars.

Fortunately for us we are on the very outer rim of the Milky Way Galaxy.  It is thought that there is a black hole at the center of our Galaxy, but we are far enough away that it will not suck us in for billions of years.  Granted I am 70 so probably not going to be a problem for me.

At the end of each class Joel offers aspirins.  It started as a joke but as we are walking away we shake our heads and tell each other that this is mind blowing (without LSD).

Guns for the Themis

I am at the stage where the main deck is complete and I must add the guns with rigging before I can proceed with the upper decks.  I spent the last few weeks turning the guns and building the carriages for both the gun deck and the upper decks.  The model will have a total of 34 guns (I may yet add carronades)  What you see in the picture is just a few of the guns.  The one in front is a 6 pounder that fires an iron ball about the size of a baseball.  The other guns are 18 pounders that fire a ball the size of a softball.  Do not look that different but the 18 pounders weigh at least twice the smaller guns, so they go on the lower main deck and the smaller guns go on the upper deck.  This gives stability to the ship.

Obviously when they were building a frigate the guns would go in last but as I do not have 1 inch high workers to mount and rig the guns later, I have to do it at this stage.

Many years ago I used to buy turned brass guns from a model part supplier but these cost about $4 each.  You can imagine my reluctance when I was building the Victory which had 104 guns.  Plus the purchased guns were not always correct to scale.  So I started turning out my own guns from Holly accurate to the scale as you saw in my previous blog.   As all guns were blackened you really cannot tell the difference.

Lots of rigging and lines to go but making progress.  With the weather getting better I will have less time to spend in the shop.



One of the rarest elements on Earth is the Helium molecule.

In my Cosmology class we learn that when the cosmos was formed the basic building molecules were Hydrogen and Helium.  Every other molecule from carbon to gold to rhodium only came about as stars collapsed and in their final death explosions drove protons and neutrons together to produce the heavier elements.  Even with that hydrogen and helium make up 99.9% of all the mass of the universe.

When the gasses produced by the collapse of stars started to coagulate to form the new stars with massive fusion of hydrogen and helium, a few remote gatherings took place for planets.  In the rare extreme Iron based lumps came about like Earth and the moon.  With all the heat in the gravity involved most of the natural helium evaporated although hydrogen remained trapped in molecular combinations such as water.  Billions of years pass and helium is almost gone on earth.

Never-the-less we are still able to capture the minute traces of helium.  Very valuable in scientific experiments but the largest use is still blowing up balloons for parties.  Once these gasses are released they flow up into the atmosphere and escape earth’s gravity.   Still there is one remaining value to mankind.

We brought a group of floating balloons home from our sock hop party.  Tonight as Pat was closing up on the computer I cut open a couple of balloons and after breathing in the helium I was able to join her in the den and do my donald duck imitation, which made her laugh.  Rare helium gas lost forever to our planet, but it made her laugh.

What a weird concept.


Learning from Mistakes

It is a well know adage that you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your success.

I had a lesson on this again this last week.

For the model of the Themis that I am working on I am at the stage of producing the guns with their carriages.  26 eighteen pounders for the gun deck and 8 six pounders for the upper deck.

Years ago I used to order turned brass cannons from a model supplier but these can cost from $3 to $5 each.  Give you an idea for the Victory there were 106 guns.

In any event as the guns were oxidized or painted black it became obvious to me that I should just turn them on my lathe out of wood.  This had the benefit that I could make them accurate to the scale and not taking what was available from the hobby store.

Fortunately Blaine gave me a great little mini lathe about 30 years ago.  I love lathe turning.  As I have said in previous blogs, it reminds me of the scene in Ghost where Patrick Swayze fondles Demi Moore while turning a pot.  Not quite the same but from a block of wood you get a turned piece.  I turn pillars and stanchions.

So I am turning the set of 8 six pounder guns.  Love the first one so duplicated it 7 more times.  Went to do the next stage where I drill for the pin that goes through to make the mounting trunnions and realize that I measured wrong on the first one and copied the mistake again and again.  A bit of an issue because I turn the guns from Holly which is becoming very difficult to replace.  I have finally found a source in Ontario where for $120 they will send me two more pieces…. but I digress.

In the first picture on the left you will see the first set.  You will note that the wide band where the trunion goes through is at 50% of the length but not 50% of the weight as the gun is tapered.  Another 3 hours of work and I replicated the guns with the wide band at the balance point.  Threw the other guns in the garbage.  I can guarantee that I will not make this mistake again.

The black bits on a couple of the good guns is an experiment I was doing on how to make perfect knobs.  Not worth the effort.

A Study of the Cosmos

As many of you know, Pat and I are taking courses at the local college.  These are Elder College courses intended for seniors that want to keep their minds from going to waste.

I have taken courses on the environmental impact on our local estuary, and a review (book club) of fictional novels about the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic wars.  A course on the development of craft beer making (that had the benefit of tasting a wide variety of craft beers) and a course on how to identify rocks.   Pat has studied interesting concepts of Math, and the joy of Spread Sheets and her current course on cryptic crosswords (she is a bit weird but gotta luv her).

Obviously these are not courses that young people take to try and find a job, but it fascinates the seniors of our valley.

Last term I took a course on the study of our Solar System.  A wonderful dynamic teacher named Joel, and I became enthralled with the details of our system.  Neptune and its many moons, who could not love that?  Pluto… had to be removed.

So I followed up this term with Joel’s course on the bigger Cosmos.  Class was over booked with 25 seniors.

This is an entirely different class than the Solar System.  As Joel said at the first class… you will need aspirins as your heads will hurt.

Okay the Big Bang.  Took place 13.9 billion years ago.  The Hubble telescope can look out there in space and see the event because when you look into space you see history.  You can see galaxies that existed billions of years before our Milky Way and see history with hundreds of examples of cosmic developments.

Then you come to the mind expanding concepts.

After the Big Bang the Universe was expanding.  But into what?  There was nothing, don’t even think of vacuum, there was nothing out there.  The big bang created existence. No matter how far they search into the cosmos there is nothing older than 13.9 billion years.

Okay so Joel leads us through this difficult concept but then it gets more weird.  We look into space and all we can see with the naked eye are about 4000 star systems which is a small fraction of  the 250 billion stars in our relatively small galaxy.  And there are at least 100 billion galaxies all flying away from us.

Okay Okay I have to skip the details to get to the really mind blowing ideas.  You take all of the stars and all of the planets and all of the gasses that float around and that only makes up 4% of the mass of the Universe.  The rest is made up of dark matter and dark energy.  You cannot see it and they emit no light radiation but it is there because it has gravity, the gravity that forms galaxies and holds them together.  The small mass of the stars and planets would not keep a galaxy together.  Our sun should have flown off into space because of its speed but it keeps turning around the milky way because of a mass 25 times bigger than all the stars etc that holds us in.

What is Dark Matter and even weirder, what is Dark Energy.  Between them they make up 95% of the mass of the Universe.

Today’s class was about how Gravity is an energy and can be exchanged into mass as the Universe is expanding.  With lots of math to demonstrate.

There you have 24 seniors sitting in a class with their jaws open and realizing everything we learned 50 – 60 years ago in Physics classes in High School was wrong.  We think Newton invented gravity because it makes an apple fall on your head.  We think of gravity as a force like electrical or magnetic attraction but apparently it is an energy. And like E = MC2 tells us, energy can convert to mass.   As the Universe expands at exponential rate the mass of the vacuum in cosmos will become total.  Fortunately I am not worried about my life or even the life of my great great grandchildren.

Joel did tell us at the first class that he offers Aspirins because most of us are going to experience a mind explosion.

This is not the simple beer class, but it is exciting.  Only a few of our senior group are baling out but we stand in the hall afterwards and admit that this is difficult to take without marijuana.

Well not me.    Three more classes in the course and we are going into realms of even more visions.

Our 50s Sock Hop

Last night we had our 50s 60s Sock Hop for our Probus club.  Pat and I were on the organizing committee and we have been meeting all winter for the planning.

Wonderful success.  About 50 members and everyone came in character.  I was actually under dressed with my A & W tee shirt and rolled up black pants with white socks.  Lots of Elvis and poodle skirts and the Fonz complete with ciggies rolled up in the tee shirt arm.

We had 8 varieties of Chilies with all the accouterments.  A DJ and a room full of decorations.  All this for $20 a person and I think we will make a profit.

The decorations were fabulous.  In addition to my individual records (which everyone loved) the walls were covered with signs.  Bev (our social leader) made center pieces for each table of  Sundaes out of red cups that were beautiful and someone brought a cardboard Cadillac for the photo booth.

Lots of line dances and limbo and hula dances.  Granted everyone is 70 or older so the limbo bar was not that low.   Great party.

A Chili Extravaganza

Our local Probus (retired people) are holding our spring dance this weekend.  In the past we had a St Patrick’s dance at the local Legion where we had an Irish band and everyone dressed in green.  Good time but the comments were coming from the 85% of the members that do not actually do anything but want the rest of us to entertain them, that they wanted something different.

So we are holding a 50s/60s sock hop dance.  Take everyone back to their high school days.  And trying to do it cheap (I have no idea why)

Pat and I are on the event committee and we have been meeting since last fall.  Just like High School. (actually not like high school I was never part of the in-group party members)

We set the price at $20 per person for which we have a DJ that specializes in period music, rental of an old church and a meal.  After long debate about what would be a suitable easy meal from the period (I wanted Pizza) we settled on Chili.  So everyone on the committee is making a chili that we will serve from crock pots.  8 varieties of chilies.  With all the accouterments of cheeses and limes and buns etc.

And the decorations…  Just like in High School a sub group of the ‘In Crowd’ has been working on decorations.  I have personally made simulated records for everyone showing up.  Take a black disposable plate and add a center that makes the plate look like a 45.  Every record is unique to every guest that is coming.  I copy the one I made for Pat.  These will be stuck on the walls around the room along with lots of other decorations. (I know the picture looks like a plate but image it on the wall around the room)  By the way Orca is the name of our Probus group.

Today Pat and I spent hours making two huge  batches of chili.  Pat is making her normal chili that she has made in the past but I was making a Southwestern black bean spicy chili (granted not too spicy this is a club of retirees)

Everyone is supposed to show up with their 50s or 60s dress.  We will see how it works out and a future blog may show pictures.