It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Back to School Again

Started the spring semester planning to take two classes: Drawing I and Japanese. I decided against taking the for-a-grade Japanese class that met every morning at 0830. Instead I decided to take a once-a-week evening class at a local adult-ed program, there’s no pressure for grades, it’s cheaper, etc. etc.

My Drawing I instructor is great. She’s a MFA painting candidate in her early 30s, likes teaching intro classes, and is really enthusiastic about art in general. I was nervous going to class today, but by the end of class, I was really into it and I’m looking forward to the rest of the semester.

The plan is still for me to get into a serious ID program, which means putting together a portfolio and not making an ass of myself when I go to my interview on 25 Feb. A fair chunk of my portfolio work is documenting previous projects, making sketches and SolidWorks models of new projects and a sketchbook full of ideas and brainstorming. I’m also finishing off one of my firewood racks as a present for some friends which means many hours in the garage with the TIG laying down butt-welds in carbon steel.

I want to stop talking about school for a few moments and talk about how much I love TIG welding. The cheapest and easiest types of welding, SMAW (stick) and GMAW (MIG) are great for all sorts of uses, but I really detest both of them.

Stick welding is great because you can weld rusted or dirty metal or in nasty environments or wierd positions. But with stick, sparks go everywhere, the welds are ugly, you have to hammer off the slag, and the welds are really ugly. If you’re driving by a road construction project and you see flashes of light and huge showers of sparks, that’s probably someone using a stick welder to put together steel girders or other huge chunks of metal. Stick is really easy to learn — I was able to put together a welding table with a stick welder as my first project. But trick things like filler-less welds are impossible with stick, and there’s no way to weld aluminum or exotic metals.

MIG welding is also easy. Imagine a hot glue gun that uses metal instead of plastic — just pull the trigger and you’re welding. But the welds, oh they are ugly. Ugly ugly ugly. And like stick welding, there are limits as to what you can weld based on the type of metal and the type of weld. If you’re making something like weightlifting equipment or ladder racks for trucks, MIG is definitely the way to go. A person without much training can crank out huge amounts of finished product at a really low cost.

But TIG, oh how I love the TIG. Weld together two pieces of stainless steel without using any filler? No problem. Weld together tube steel then grind the weld off leaving a smooth, polished surface that looks like it was made from a single piece of metal? Sure! How about welding together these bits of aluminum? I’ll get right on it. Dissimilar metals? Of course! Exotic metals? If you own a bicycle frame made of titanium, it was probably TIG welded and by a live human, not a robot.

TIG welding is at least as hard to learn as gas welding, requires levels of cleanliness not found in many home shops, and requires more expensive gear. While you’re learning you’ll probably spend more time grinding clean new TIG electrodes than you will be using them, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it and start cranking out beautiful welds. TIG welding requires a sort of meditative calm and you’ll find yourself in a near trance as you go thru the motions of laying down a bead. But like any skill that’s difficult to learn, the results are the payoff — beautiful welds.

For the really geeky people out there, Miller has a great bit on their site for choosing the right welding technology.

…back to school…

I see two outcomes from going back to school: an ID degree and a full-time job as a designer; or learning enough that I can open something like The Crucible. In my fantasy dream world, I have an ID firm that cranks out great work by day and teaches industrial arts and design skills by night.

In the really real world, I’d be happy with either one of those.

And as it’s now an hour past my bed-time,  お休み!

Technorati tags: |

posted by jet at 23:27  

Monday, January 24, 2005

Yahoo vs. Google

In the past few weeks I’ve switched to as my primary search engine.

Do I have mental damage? A job at Yahoo that requires I eat the dog food? A pathological hatred of popularity?

No, no, and yes, but that’s not the reason.

The fact of the matter is that for my every day life, Yahoo has become the better search engine. Three quick examples as to why:

– On Thanksgiving, I wanted a quick refresher on how to carve a bird. The main page of had a section on everything I needed to know about carving a turkey straight from Martha Stewart herself. I didn’t even bother checking out, maybe I could have found something after poking around a bit.

– The other day I saw an episode of Biker Build-Off[1] featuring Zero Engineering. I typed “Zero Engineering” (no quotes) into and got a couple of hits with online magazine articles, but nothing pointed to Zero Engineering’s web site in the first few pages of results. Using the same search at returned — Zero Engineering’s website — as the first result.

– Last night we wanted to go see a movie. Again, wins — start with, click on “Movies”, enter my zip code, and within minutes I had the show-times for local showings of “A Very Long Engagement”.

On the other hand, maybe I just have good library research skills and know where to start looking for things. Google’s a bit too much like every index of every book in the library concatenated together while Yahoo has become the card catalog and the nice old librarian behind the counter, all in one. (I know, I know, “What’s a card catalog?”. Damn kids today and your fancy library terminals.)

1. An excellent series about top notch fabricators designing and building bikes designed to be ridden and entered in show competitions. Definitely not a soap-opera like “American Chopper” or “American Hot Rod”, if you want to learn something about metal fabrication and paint, the various “Biker Build-Off” series are a must-see. “A Car is Reborn” and “A Bike is Born” should also be on your TiVo DVR’s Season Pass list, but I’ll write more about those later.

Technorati Tags: |

posted by jet at 23:23  

Sunday, January 23, 2005

OLN’s Coverage of Dakar 2005


The desert changes everything, or so they kept saying on the first hour of OLN’s Dakar coverage. I’ve seen bad coverage before, but I wouldn’t wish OLN’s level of coverage on my least favorite sport.

And, yes, you’re right: 2005 Dakar is already over. So why is OLN’s coverage just starting? I guess “timely coverage of a sporting event” wasn’t in the OLN contract with Dakar organizers.

20 minutes into the first hour of OLN’s coverage it was clear that for OLN, the desert had changed everything about the nature of racing coverage. The desert drove OLN to cover the Dakar by showing lots of stock footage, American talking heads, and not much about the Dakar itself. I don’t know who these reject hosts from the Travel Channel and ESPN 27 are, but someone should have told them they were there to cover a race, not produce a gee-whiz puff piece on American racers.

Sadly, once the actual race coverage got started, it continued to be the Robby Gordon and his American Pals Hour. Look, here’s an American racing in the Dakar! Isn’t that amazing! Here he is in his Red Bull VW drinking a Red Bull while going on like a speed freak about the race. Oh, and here’s some European guy, I think he won once or something, but since nobody wants to read subtitles while he talks, lets go talk to Robby Gordon again! And here’s some standup interviews with the drivers standing beside their pristine vehicles talking about what the Dakar means to them. Gosh, aren’t they courageous to go out and race across the desert like this?

Where’re the interviews with top contenders? Where’s the look at all the new technology being used this year? How about that new Yamaha 2WD motorcycle? What’s up with the changes to the motorcycle classes in general? How about some coverage of the new classes — are Quads official yet? Maybe go over some of the basic hazards of each country while showing the map — didn’t they have to skip one of those countries last year due to political strife? Aren’t there bandits in that one country that regularly carjack racers and crews? What are the new rules on marathon stages and tire changes? Aren’t there vintage and privateer racers, support crews, or the tech leads on the different works racers worth hearing from?

Worse still, OLN’s coverage already looks to be a couple of guys “in the rear with the gear” commenting on footage shot by people actually willing to leave the airconditioned production vans and get their clothes rumpled. Are these guys even with the race in the desert or are they just shooting standups during the liason stops?

The first time I saw an episode of Speed’s Dakar coverage, some sunburnt reporter was talking to a motorbike rider out in the desert while the rider was draining fluid from his own elbow. I was instantly hooked — what the hell is this race, why are they out in the middle of the desert, and who on earth is stupid enough to even do this sort of thing? Toby Moody was out there with the racers in the weather from start to finish talking to them at the pre-dawn starts, mid-day CPs, and late-night finishes.

That, OLN, is how you send someone to cover the Dakar. Send ’em out and get ’em dirty. They don’t want to get dirty? Fire ’em and find someone who does. It also helps to hire someone who is experienced with Dakar racing and can correctly pronounce competitor’s names. If you’re really stuck and can’t find anyone, call me — I might not know as much as the pros, but I’ll at least get out there and cover the race.

To be fair, OLN did show some actual footage of vehicles racing. As a matter of fact, I think I saw more crashes, stalls and wipeouts in the first hour of coverage than I have in any other hour of Dakar coverage. Look it’s people crashing motorbikes on the first stage! Here’s some crash footage from previous races! Let’s see a few dozen more crashes! Wow, look at that guy crash! And there’s a woman crashing!

Who cares about seeing the vehicles actually racing, aerial coverage of the course, or even footage of the pit and staging areas? SHOW ME MORE CRASHES. I’m easily confused, so don’t show me a course from the air, don’t show me footage of vehicles I don’t recognize like a 2CV or a Tatra, never show me any sort of coverage that actually might require me to think. SHOW ME MORE CRASHES.

It’s the desert. It changes everything. It makes race coverage suck in ways race coverage has never sucked before.

posted by jet at 23:21  

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Winter Break? What’s That?

…and I thought winter break was going to be a time of rest and relaxation.

Because I have a BA in an unrelated field, I’m being asked to apply as a transfer student at the school I’d like to attend full time. (I’m only part-time at my current school, and if I go full time, I want to go to a much better schoo.) Since I’m applying as a transfer student, I have to submit a portfolio — preferably 10-15 items and a recent sketchbook. On the upside, I’ve documented the hell out of several recent projects. On the downside, I didn’t organize any of that documentation. Oh, and a sketchbook? Well, I have several, but only every third page is something other than project notes, todo lists, personal commentary, etc. So, time to start keeping a ‘real’ sketchbook.

So this semester I’m only going to take only one class — Drawing I — and spend the rest of my time focusing on building portfolio material. My portfolio review is only a month after the start of the semester, but I’ll need all the free time that I can manage to get things together. (Oh, and I already checked to make sure I didn’t get the same professor as before. Based on the reading materials for the class, this one actually appears to be interested in teaching us how to draw.)

posted by jet at 23:15  

Powered by WordPress