Monday, March 30, 2020

D&D Fails

So the party was traipsing through the woods, looking for these caves, when who should pop up but a crazy old hermit.

He's pretty convincing though.  He convinces the ranger that he can teach him all about the woods, and convinces everyone that he can show them the caves come morning.  Who knows?  He probably could have.

Except that he's crazy.  So in the middle of the night, while the wizard isn't actually watching properly since he's studying his spells instead of watching, the hermit attacks the wizard.

Battle ensues, a mountain lion leaps out of a tree and joins the fray on the side of the hermit. 

The wizard, confused by the fog of war, tries to alert the hermit that they are being attacked,  at which point he looks up and sees the cards I use for initiative tracking on my tabletop game.

Yeah.  See the one that says "Opposition".  Well back then it said "Hermit".  Totally gave it away.  Didn't even think that they might assume that they were being attacked by an outside party.  Could have been so cool.

Oh well, missed opportunities and all that.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Good advice for the current troubles

Watch your back. Shoot straight. Conserve ammo. And never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Not really, but a glimpse of one possible future.

My job is somewhat on hiatus.  We are limited in what we can teach and there is no grading or face to face, so that has cut down significantly on the hours where we can be doing anything productive.

Household projects are the order of the day.  Installing a custom stock on a rifle; refinishing the garage door; rebuilding the engine of one of my Harley's; cleaning the house; posting stuff on the internet; playing the piano on a regular basis (since that was my justification for buying it); are just a few of the projects I have going.  There is also woodwork stripping which continues to be a long term project that I do infrequently and told myself I'd get to if we were shut down for a while.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons has taken a hit.  It doesn't have to though.  Twice a month I am in a campaign on Fantasy Grounds, so the campaign that I run could theoretically move there.  If only I knew how FG worked.  Oh, another project that is taking much more time than I thought.  Thankfully the guy that runs the current online campaign has offered to help me get it set up as well as let me use his modules, which are not cheap but are necessary (rough estimate about $50 to get running properly).

Did I mention that my computer fan kicks on all the time and my laptop seems to be overheating regularly?  It doesn't seem to be doing it this morning so I suspect that some combination of time and programs is causing the problem.  It may just need the cooling fan to be re-glued with Thermal Paste but guess what is unavailable on Amazon until sometime in late April.  If you said Thermal Paste you would be correct.  Not sure how "stuff to fix your computer so that you can continue to work from home" is not essential, but there it is.

Then the phone starts ringing.  "Can you come fix my Harley?".  Of course I can.  I have lots of time.

Yesterday, as I drove home from an unfinished six hour job that I thought would take four or five to be completely done, I started to freak out.  There isn't enough time in the day to get all this stuff done.  When am I supposed to do the school stuff, the Harley's, the household projects, not to mention setting up my campaign on FG so that we can relax a bit, aaaaaaagh!

So this morning I took a deep breath and wrote a list.  That is what I do.  I make lists.  I love lists.  I can put everything down on a piece of paper or an electronic file (I use Colornote on my phone).  Once it is all listed I can just pick one and do it.  When it's done I get to cross it off.  If I think of something I need to do that is not on the list I will even just do it and then add it to the list, for the sole purpose of getting to cross it off.  The list gets shorter and I feel better.

Meanwhile, however, the fan on my laptop just kicked on for no apparent reason and then went off again.  I think it's the fan.  I have a Solid State Drive (SSD) so I shouldn't be hearing it spinning up.

I guess it's time to hit post and shut down.  I'll go work on something on my list.

What did this have to do with retirement?  Well, nothing really but I could see retirement not being nearly as relaxing as it might seem.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Motorcycle Diaries

Rebuilding 2003 Harley Road King engine.  The flywheels shifted or went out of alignment or something.  I discovered this when the compensating sprocket in the primary started rubbing against the inside of the primary cover.  At first I thought it had come loose, but when I checked it wasn't.

Tore it all down over Christmas and sent off the cases, cylinders, and heads to my machinist in Texas (yes Texas.  He's good and reliable so you do what you have to).  I also included a set of flywheels that I had taken out of a brand new 2003 FLH when I did a stroker kit.  Less than eight miles, done before the bike was even delivered to the customer.  For the past two months my bike has looked sad.

Wednesday got the parts from the machinist and got started with the rebuild.  Unfortunately then discovered that I was missing the new cam bearings.  Turns out the cam install kit shipped separately and should be here some time this week.

It's Saturday and nothing yet but the mail is still to arrive later today.  Maybe they will be there.

Of course yesterday I remembered that I was going to replace the cam chain tensioner shoes while it was apart.  So I will have to order those today, which means another delay of days.  Sigh.  Not a well planned exercise.

People will talk

Every time I get into a discussion about the virus someone pops up with "but younger people are now dying".

True.  And not to minimize the deaths of older people.  After all, our parents are older.  I don't want them to die either.  Given, however, the complete destruction of the economy in the short term here is an alternative perspective.

Also, shedding a little more light on the subject of death rates, more figures coming out of Wuhan suggest a death rate closer to 1.4%.  Still scary, but not quite the panic inducing numbers being tossed around.  The higher rates are frequently being calculated using "showed symptoms vs died", rather than the far more accurate "got the virus and then died".  Part of the problem is figuring out who has the virus if they have exhibited mild or no symptoms.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

An interesting historical perspective

Since we barely teach history in high school other than to let the kids know how evil America is, here's a little tidbit from eighteenth century France.

Belling the Cat

How do you change the educational philosophy of a whole state?  I honestly have no idea.

Currently our philosophy is "all students should go to college".  I won't get into the reasons why think this or why I think it's a bad idea, suffice it to say that they do and I do.

Why do I care?  Well, the emphasis to all students is the failure they will become if they don't attend college.  In the eighth grade they are asked to fill out a "High School and Beyond" plan which asks if they are going to go to college.  Predictably most of them do.  This wouldn't really matter except...

around about the 10th or 11th grade they are asked to choose a third year high school math class.  If they have checked the "college" box, they have to take Algebra 2.  If they have checked the "other" box, they can take any math class that fits in with their plan.

This is where I come in.  Algebra 2 is low level college math.  For students who struggled through Algebra, this class is almost impossible.  If you aren't comfortable with linear equations, how comfortable are you going to be with exponentials and logarithms?

Three years ago I pitched a third year math class that would emphasize the math skills you need to be a carpenter, a welder, a plumber, an electrician, a mechanic, a nurse, etc.  I have personal knowledge of the topic because not only was I an engineer, I have spent the last twenty years working full and then part time as a Harley Davidson mechanic.  I know what is needed and I have a love for the trade.

Virtually no one signed up.  We had 9 the first year, 10 the second year, and 1 the third year (at which point the class was cancelled).  The problem is that kids have two choices.  Sign up for Trades Math which requires rewriting their whole HS&B plan or just take Algebra 2 with everyone else.  Which sounds harder to a high school student?  If you guessed the first you would be right.  I have about twenty students this year who are planning on being (fill in trade from above list or other) but are in Algebra 2 because it was the path of least resistance.  Half of them are failing.

Unfortunately in order to make our system (and therefore my class) work, I have to convince the state legislature and the whole educational establishment in my state, to change course.  Throw the helm over on the supertanker and bring it around 180°.  There's a reason, however, that the Nimitz class carrier that I served on didn't pick up their own "man overboards".  They don't turn that easily.  Same reason aircraft carriers run over inflatables full of Greenpeace protestors.  Not because they want to (although to be fair it is sort of fun) but because 100,000 tons doesn't turn that quickly.

Which brings me to my point.  Those students would benefit in every aspect of their lives if they could leave school at 16 or 17 and join an apprenticeship program.  It's what they do every weekend anyway, just mostly not for pay and not officially.  Talked to a contractor yesterday at the gun store and he told me that he is desperate for labor.  People to do grunt work and learn the trade.  He can't hire anyone under 18.  State law.  Meanwhile these kids could be learning a trade and when their high school friends graduate, they'd already have two years of experience under their belts with all the pay raises and seniority that come along with those years.

Objections?  Sure.  Maybe we should make them take a math class and an English class to make sure they have a basic education.  For Pete's sake though, they've been sitting in school for ten years.  Have they learned nothing?  I'd be willing to be they have learned enough to be successful and, if they discover that moving up the ladder takes a couple night classes, they'd be willing to do it.  Heck, I went to bartender's school, Harley's EFI Management Class, and Western's Postbac Teaching Certificate program.  All three of them improved my job prospects at the time that I took them.

Which rolls us back around to the original problem.  How do you change the educational philosophy of a whole state which is geared towards "college, college, college"?  How do you convince a whole legislature, which to be fair has much bigger problems on their plate, that they are failing to serve a substantial minority of the school age population?

I don't know.