The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Geese: Forces of Nature Not To Be Denied!

This is just the beginning of the parade. The crossing went on for minutes.
Driving in to work recently, four lanes of traffic ground to a halt. A large gaggle of geese crossed the lanes and the center divide, totally nonplussed by our impatience and our technology. Our busy days, our precious schedules, our rat race paused by nature. Here's a quote: 

“A row of daffodils and red tulips nestled against the walkway beneath my feet. Stray weeds peeked up through the cracks in the concrete, a reminder that that nature had the final say. No matter how much mankind bulldozed or built, all was vulnerable to Mother Nature's whims.”
― Pamela Crane, A Secondhand Life*
(*Thanks to Good Reads for this) 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hobby Time: Putting Legs Under Door Layout in N Scale

It took me some time to discover a good, solid, inexpensive, reliable framework to support the door layout I'd started years ago, with my father's help. It doesn't take up a lot of room, which is good, as my space is limited. In N Scale, you can cover a lot of territory on a hollow core door, as you'll see if you follow my adventures. It was surprisingly difficult to find. If you're having the same issue, I can give you a short cut. Go see the following video on YouTube from Model Railroad TV and then return: Know that this video was made years ago, so $15 no longer applies, but the benchwork is still economical and solid. The list of materials remains sound. The 1 x 3 stringers are cheaper wood from the 1 x 3 framework wood.

I had this hollow core door layout surface for years, having started this hobby when I didn't have the time to pursue it. The challenge was to create benchwork that would support this door. The problem was how to attach legs to the base of that door.

The lip extending beneath the bottom of the door gave me the inspiration. Heavy trim work was placed around the outer edge of the door to protect it. It extended far enough beneath the underside of the door to create a sturdy lip. The benchwork frame could be adjusted to fit snugly to the bottom of the door inside of that lip. The weight of the layout is enough to hold the door firmly to the snugly fit benchwork top.

I measured each piece of lumber to fit beneath that door. The closely spaced 1 x 3's in the interior of the frame are the fasteners for the 2 x 4 legs. This solved the problem of how to securely attach legs to that flat door surface. It works remarkably well. If you measure carefully and fasten the wood with 1 5/8" wood screws firmly, you can achieve a tight fit with the hollow core door's lip. I cut the legs to countertop height (3'). The hollow core door layout on top of that increased the height and it is a great height for work.

I did as much of the work, virtually all of the lumber cutting with a circular saw, outside of the house where there was a lot of room to work with 8' lengths of lumber. With a small house, I had to bring the framework top inside and add the legs there. Inset the front legs 5" as the video instructions state to avoid kicking the legs later. Inset the rear legs by an inch so the stringer along the outside back legs won't hit the back wall (this also saves space). Here's a helpful tip. If you have a simple single speed drill, you can add the screw driving bit to it and easily install the screws (using 1/8" guide holes to ease the process) and do not need an inset bit. That drill will drive the screw heads beneath the surface of the wood! Just don't let it go too deep.

Attach the 1 x 3 stringers to prevent wobbling in the
legs and turn the benchwork right side up. It's remarkably light and one person can easily turn it over. I added leveling feet to the base of the legs to make sure the table would remain level for the layout.

While I was able to successfully build this straight forward benchwork alone, it took two of us to fit the layout to the benchwork. It was a firm fit.

The hollow core door layout fits snugly atop the bench work.

To see N Scale locomotives run on that layout in place, after years with the track unattended to in the basement, see:

Hobby Time: N Scale RR Makes a Leap Forward

This is a simple little demonstration that track that sat idle for years on a hollow core door for many years still works. Minor repairs were required. I am impressed by the durability of a model railroad scale that when I was growing up was considered little more than a toy. However, with limited living space and discretionary funds, N Scale proves perfect as a distraction from the stresses of my demanding work life.

For me, the biggest victory was finding that Bachmann N Scale Norfolk & Western passenger engine, which requires 15" curves at least, navigated the old curves smoothly after cleaning and minor repairs. I've looked over the old stock and will make some purchases soon to complete a basic layout. You see, it's the modeling that fascinates me most. It's rewarding the create the track and see the trains successfully navigate one's handiwork, but for me creating a detailed town holds far greater attractions. We'll see how it all turns out.

A really big step in the right direction was finding via Model Railroad TV a layout bench that would support the door layout. Having put a lip around the edge of the door, I was able to fit the benchwork smoothly inside the lip. With the weight of that door layout top, the layout fits snugly and firmly to the benchwork without needing any additional fasteners of any sort.

It has also been instructional to place the models completed on the bare layout surface for a sense of scale. I now have a much better understanding of what will be visible and, as importantly, what will not, to the average viewer. That's really good to know!

Small steps, but so far all in the right directions.

P.S. I often wondered why model railroaders made these films of running engines. Having successfully created a track and gotten engines to run along the track smoothly, I now get it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Halloween: July 15, 2017

July 15, 2017, I kid you not!
What do you suppose is the world's record for the earliest Halloween candy display? Well, walking into the local Acme today, I was hit with a case of time dislocation vertigo. There before me was the Halloween candy display you see here. I had to remind myself that this is mid-July, not mid-October. For just a second I was both confused and panicked. I thought for just a second I was way behind in my Halloween prep. Then I remembered the 87 degree heat right outside the sliding doors I'd just entered and my confusion and panic turned to incredulity. Really?!?

And what I might ask is the purpose of putting out Halloween candy in mid-July (I know, to turn a profit, but other than that)? Do people really stock up this early for the coming season of trick-or-treaters and jack o'lanterns? Is this just another sneaky way to fatten us all up on sugar and corn syrup? Or are the aliens ready to "Serve Man" close at hand?

Can Christmas and Hannukah displays be far behind?

Here's an NPR article from 2011 that explains the trend:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hobby Time: Gloor Craft Single Stall Engine House Work Continues

Painting nearly done. I find this mailing package cardboard a
great painting surface as I'm not the neatest painter. The lighted
magnifier is a must for me. It makes painting fine details possible.
It has been an interesting challenge working on this old wooden model. After traveling through decades from the 1970s (I believe), the single stall engine house was missing a few pieces. I bought a pack of balsa wood and recreated the back wall of the office using the front wall as a template. The cast half window over the engine house's front door was missing, so I filled that back in. Looking over historical photos of old engine houses, I see this was a common fate for such features. I had to decide how to paint the engine house and ran across historical information that railroad lines would paint many of their buildings in particular colors. Since the town that is my inspiration is located in western Maryland, I went with an approximation of the Western Maryland RR's paint scheme for their buildings, medium gray with crimson trim. That worked well enough for this project. The painting is nearly complete and construction will begin soon. On the right hand side of one of the pictures is a paint stirring stick with masking tape attached. It's a great way, I learned via YouTube videos from model railroaders, for hanging on to small pieces in need of paint.

The top left wall had to be recreated and the half window infilled in the
bottom left front wall of the engine shed.

It's an ongoing adventure and so far I'm enjoying the process immensely. It certainly is different from the plastic model kits. It is a more hands on process, requiring additional steps not necessary with the plastic kits, including cutting out the openings for all the windows and doors, and creating interior bracing along wall edges and door frames.

As you can see, taping the instructions to the wall, out of harm's way, works best for me.

For a source for historic paint schemes of various railways, see:

Back to the Landfill: Post Yard Sale Impact

Lanchester Landfill site (tallest hill in distance to right) beyond
Honey Brook, PA's western edge of town
Our yard sale was terrific for lighting a fire under me to get rid of old stuff stored in odd places. While in the attic retrieving things from a previous yard sale carefully stored there, I rediscovered the corpses of computers past.

It was time to take another trip to our landfill, about 25 minutes from home. It is quite the place. It is a 600 acre property, 160 acres dedicated to the landfill itself. Looking at their fact sheet, it serves 400,000 residents of a single county, and their businesses. The 25 full time staff take in 1,000 tons per day of "non-hazardous municipal refuse and residuals." This represents 90% of the county's waste. I wonder if this includes the recyclables?

There is compost on site and a nature trail on the property. That was not what I expected. It certainly is not the town dump as represented in so many novels of years gone by. In fact, in 2015, this landfill won the Corporate Lands for Learning Rookie of the Year Award. Okay, I might as well use the name: this is the Lanchester Landfill outside Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. This is also a far cry from the rural dump site my grandparents used,  a steep hollow found by a bend in the road called colorfully "The Devil's Elbow." The tipping fees collected help benefit the communities around the landfill as well. Who knew?

Where staff tells you where to go and materials brought
for dumping can be weighed.

You can see the site from a distance, a good-sized hill rising above the landscape. How much of that is a natural feature and how much of it is years and years of waste accumulated, I cannot say. All I can say is the staff at the weigh station are unfailingly polite and ready to direct you toward the path you need to take to get your business done. I was pleased to see that the old TV previously dropped off was nowhere in sight.

Be glad all your trash goes off to such an anonymous site. As a former archaeologist, I can tell you, professionals can learn a great deal about you from your trash! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Garden Invasion of Beauty

Darn it you white flowered vine, you; you opportunistic invader of a garden we can't tend as well or as often as we'd like. Why do you have to have such pretty blooms? I was ready to yank the vines and then caught sight of the white flowers among the day lilies and they stayed my hand. Very sneaky, you moon flowers, you ... or morning glories! Are such plants weeds when they look this good?

Okay, for the moment,
you stay! 

12 truths I learned from life and writing | Anne Lamott

What Anne Lamott picked up in the way of truths in 61 years of life and writing. She wishes us calm and truth and laughter in the midst of this stormy, fearsome life. Stick with it to the very end. The closing interview is well worth waiting for ... and the talk itself is pretty wonderful.

For more on truth, see:

Jupiter's Great Red Spot Up Close

The Juno spacecraft got up close and personal with Jupiter's Great Red Spot storm on Monday, July 10, as it flew by. The storm is believed to be around 350 years old, 1.3 times as wide as planet Earth, and may be shrinking (without the aid of many monoliths). This is one of the amazing images beamed back to hungry scientist waiting to devour the data and learn more about this storm of legend. We await further news.

To catch up with a NASA article about the event, see:

Stopped by Flowers

I have a week off. It's a stay-cation for reasons too complicated to bother with. I was that guy out in the yard mowing the front lawn like a maniac in the morning during a heat wave. It couldn't be helped, I told myself. Rain is coming tonight and by Saturday, when the weather clears, the lawn will be a jungle. So, out I went to mow, wondering what either heat exhaustion or a heart attack was going to feel like. I swung around to the side of the house and my progress was arrested by the simple beauty of the day lily and its cone flower buddies growing together along the fence line. All else was forgotten for a few minutes while I took pictures with my phone.

Beauty will creep up on us at the most unexpected moments. I'm glad it does.

The front lawn is done, the air conditioner is running inside, and I've got souvenirs of this morning's beauty. Life is good.