Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just for fun, two more weaves...

I spent more time at the loom. I did the same pattern as before and got a far better result. There aren't as many mistakes and the band has a very consistent width.



Here's a closeup.




Then I made another band using a different technique. Quite disastrous, heh. Here's a decent section. It's about 5/8" wide.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Further Adventures in Tablet Weaving

My first tablet weaving experiment was entertaining and successful. However, the setup I was using - 2 c-clamps and some stretchy acrylic yarn - left much to be desired. I wouldn't be able to do a more serious piece that way.

I scurried to the shop and made a little Inkle loom. At least, I think this qualifies as one. It's 16" long, has 4 pegs, and can accept about 52" of thread. I made it out of the finest quality salvage plywood. You know the smell of olde world craftsmanship? This tastes almost exactly like that.

Anyway, here it is:



In all seriousness, it is made of salvage plywood, but it's good stuff - no voids and a melamine face. I bored the holes for the pegs with a Forstner bit - highly recommended. The pegs are 5/8". Perhaps not large enough but it's what I had. I got lucky in that the pegs fit snugly in the holes. I completed the loom by screwing on a base made from 1/2 plywood. The nail is a hanger for my tensioning mechanism.

Here are the tablets I used. They're just normal thin cardboard, perhaps as thick as a cereal box. I cut them into 2.5" squares and punched a hole in each corner. Hmmm maybe these aren't good enough to be tablets. Maybe they're just cardboard squares :-D



Now here's the loom strung up and ready to go.



The tablets are rotated in a specific pattern which lifts different threads up and lowers others, forming a shed, just like a normal loom. The weaver rotates the cards and runs a shuttle of thread through the shed. This is done many times ;-)

After a while, you get something like this.



and



Note the completed banding between the lower pegs. When the weaving gets too long the tablets get crowded. The band of thread, which has been tied into a loop, is rotated around the loom creating more working space.

Finally, you end up with something like this. Actually, I end up with something like this. Hopefully you'll end up with something nicer!



This is my 2nd time weaving. Note the lack of consistency in the width of the band - I was experimenting with weft tension. That's the thread that gets shuttled through the shed.

Here's a closeup of the nicer section:



I learned the following while making this band:

1. Make sure your threads are long enough. Mine were just barely workable. The loom was under too much tension - the tablets were hard to turn. Thread is cheap - cut a little extra if you're not sure. Go look at the images of the threaded loom above, and you'll see there's no tensioner - I had to stretch the bajezus out of the threads to get them to fit over the pegs! I didn't take into account that knots use up thread!

2. I should have read up on how to tie the threads to the loom. I made something up. As an added bonus I got to have Adventures in Uneven Tension which plagued me the whole time I was weaving.

3. Don't stop weaving unless you are at a well defined point in the pattern. Write down where you are. Trust me on this.

4. Yer wife will steal the band when you're done so don't give up. Keep weaving!

That's all, it's bedtime!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tablet weaving experiment

I learned about tablet weaving a few days ago. This is an old style of weaving decorative and strong bands. The bad news is that it's rather labor intensive. The good news is that you can make intricate designs and it requires few materials.

For my experiment I cut twelve 2.5" cardboard squares then punched a hole in each corner. Each of these cardboard beauties is called a tablet. And that's pretty much all you need in the way of equipment. You have to anchor each end of the band. I used c-clamps which is fairly standard. If I do this again, I'll find a better way :-)

We have yarn galore, but I wasn't about to play with Kim's good yarn. I found some acrylic in the basement at the bottom of the sump well. Under some shoes. I decided to use that.

Other sites, like this one, explain the mechanics better than I can, so go there to learn more.

Here's a picture of my first attempt.



It looks ok, maybe. But I knew I didn't manage the tension well so I undid it (took forever) and did it again.



Much better. I tried to keep the tension the same all the time. You can see the pattern getting smaller as I ran out of room - the tension was increasing. This would be less an issue on a band that's a little longer - this fiber is HUGE compared to what is normally used for tablet weaving.

Here's another pic, this time showing the entire setup.



You probably know roughly how a loom works - the machine pulls some threads high and the weaver passes a shuttle of thread through the shed - the space between the low threads and high threads. Then based upon the pattern, different threads are lifted and the shuttle is passed through the shed the other way. Repeat ad nauseum. Tablet weaving works off a similar principle. The holes in the tablets form the high and low threads. Then, the tablets are rotated causing some threads to be move downward and others to move upward. This is functionally identical to the loom raising threads. You can see the shed in the previous photo - the V shape just to the right of the tablets.

The design I wove is drop-dead simple and involves 4 rotations of the tablets one way, then 4 the other way, repeat. So the mauve pattern widens 4 times, then narrows 4 times forming the diamond. I have 4 complete diamonds so I turned the tablets 32 times. The symmetry is common - and fairly necessary - because as you rotate the tablets the thread acquires a twist. Going the other way removes the twist.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A day at the range

Justin and I went to a gun range today to shoot his new flintlock pistol. Our hosts, the Wilderness Rangers of Kentucky, are blackpower enthusiasts, a dozen of the most generous and friendly people you could hope to meet. Most were dressed in period garb. A few looked like they stepped out of the 1700s.

Even though they didn't know us, they took the time to show us how to properly load and fire Justin's pistol. They also let us shoot their rifles quite a lot.

I always thought shooting a flintlock rifle would involve a heavy trigger pull, a delay while the powder in the pan burned, and then a wooosh! as the ball left the barrel, visibly traveling downrange.

Wrong. The trigger pull tended to be feather light and instantly followed by a crisp crack. Recoil was light, in part because of the rifles are heavy.

We happened to attend their Thanksgiving meet. So after a turkey shoot, which is a multi-round shooting contest, they had a spread of food. There was homemade chili, hot dogs, corned beef, turkey, soft drinks... and no vegetables :-D Of course they tried to feed us until we popped.

ooo someone made coffee over a fire, it was great coffee. I used my period-accurate Starbucks insulated coffee mug.

A good time was had by all!




Justin takes a shot.




Tony misfires, then takes his shot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My son started happydancequilting.com, a t-shirt quilt company

My son is a business major at the University of Louisville. He's started a t-shirt quilt business as a way to learn how to start and run a small business. His mother is a 'subject matter expert' with regards to making quilts and using the type of machine he'll be using for his business. He is a very good machine quilter and runs the machine for more traditional types of quilts a few times a week.

Now he's learning about the ugly realities of starting a business. These include everything from big-picture topics such as marketing to detail-oriented tasks such as buying boxes to talking to customers.

Stop by Happy Dance Quilting and have a look!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Quilt Rack

I recently made a quilt rack for the wife.

The top is a plank, and it's screwed to the brackets. The bar the quilt is hanging from is a loose fit in the brackets so it can be slid out easily. The rack was stained with a golden oak stain and finished with water-based poly.

The quilt is typical of my wife's style and craftsmanship. It's hanging in the kitchen.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I finished another chessboard.

I made this board for my son, just because. The board itself is made of maple and walnut - traditional and hard to beat. The frame is cherry and there's a mahogany inlay around the playing area. I didn't stain the wood at all. I applied three coats of oil then two coats of paste wax. The oil did tint the wood a little.

I made it following the same general theme as my first chessboard. That link points to a 9-part series wherein I make my first board.














The next pictures are of the same board but with another chess set, this one in ebony and boxwood.





Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Health Care Fiasco

Our Betters in DC have demonstrated total cluelessness with regards to pretty much everything except self-enrichment.

I am against a nationalized health care system. Why? Because every example on the planet is a failure, yielding services that Americans will not accept, with quality beneath that which we are accustomed, and saddling the citizens with an ever-increasing oppressive cost. At the same time, the healthcare industry that has produced so many innovations will likely wilt due to regulation. There can not be a poorer decision than to nationalize health care.

President Obama and his cronies in DC are willing to sacrifice the health care enjoyed by 85% of the population in order to provide inferior heath care to the 15%* of the population that is uninsured. He is willing to throw the baby out with the bath water. Why he and his cronies are willing to do this is inexplicable.

(*Bear in mind the 15% is President Obama's number and is the maximum. Other sources claim a lower number.)

Now, indeed there are some problems with the way things are:

1. healthcare is very expensive
2. premiums are increasing a shocking amount every year.

While these statements are indisputable, the president hasn't told us why either of these things are true. And neither has the Opposition. Why is this? This is the most basic analysis imaginable. Again, the behavior of our representatives is inexplicable.

But instead of analyzing the problem and proposing solutions, President Obama's solution is to create a nationalized system that's a regulatory mess. He proposes adding 50 new agencies to help manage healthcare. None of these agency workers are doctors seeing patients, nurses making the rounds, or ER personnel saving lives. They are bureaucrats charged with regulating the health care process. Do you really think that somehow they are going to free doctors and nurses from the chains of oppression and allow health care to happen with some amazing efficiency? Is the health care community so stupid that a group of regulators can somehow make them more efficient? Hardly.

President Obama's health care plan really makes no sense at all.

Instead of a nationalized health care plan, how about some tweaks to the current system.

I came up with version 1.0 (alpha) while mowing:

1. Somebody designs a minimal reasonable health policy.

2. Insurance companies must offer this plan to all citizens.

3. Insurance companies may not deny coverage for this plan.

4. Insurance companies may not charge more than X% of a family's annual income for this plan.

5. Insurance companies may charge less than X% however.

6. Insurance companies may offer other plans at their discretion including those with lesser or greater coverage for whatever prices they deem appropriate.

7. Insurance companies that try to drive low-paying families onto competing insurers get fined heavily.

8. Individuals without 'continuous coverage' have a three month waiting period before they become eligible for any benefits. This is to prevent people from not paying premiums until they want services.

9. Participation is voluntary.

10. People who opt out and get hurt bear the brunt of hospital bills. So sorry for your poor planning and decision making.

11. Hospitals must charge individuals the same prices they charge insurance companies.

Where X is selected to yield a reasonable long term profit for the insurers. X becomes a political football, but there's always a political football. The wealthy end up subsidizing the poor, but they always do.

This addresses the issues I raised previously. Everyone has health care within their reach, though they may have to make choices. And the price of the standard health care can't increased exponentially because it is fixed at X% by law.

Barring an actual analysis of the issue, a proposal such as this seems like it will do the most while harming the least. It allows insurers to do what they need to do, and doesn't incur the bloat of an army of government regulators.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cooper's Hawk

My son got this picture this afternoon of a Cooper's Hawk that's nested in one of our trees. He (?) and his mate have eaten all the robins and doves.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Birds

So Ms. Stormcrow and Stormcrow Jr were out in the yard this afternoon fiddlin' with the tomatoes. The Ms. hears a bird sound she has never heard. What she sees are two large raptors flying over the field. She says she has never seen a larger bird. They were brown, and one was markedly larger than the other. She doesn't think they were vultures.

Stormcrow Jr grabbed the camera, a little pocket digital, and gets some decent shots considering he was so far away. I'll ask Eileen at Raptor Rehab of KY. She'll know...

For now, the pictures, cropped down.






Monday, June 15, 2009

My Electronics Adventure, part 1

Ok, so I decided I need to suck at another hobby. I chose electronics this time. The first thing I did was to think of some unattainable goal. That will help me fail.

I have a vintage lathe that has few features. I've decided to add a quick change gear box (QCGB.) A QCGB is a gear-filled gizmo that connects a lathe's spindle to its leadscrew using any of dozens of ratios. It is is very much like a car transmission. The result is that the carriage moves a fixed amount for each revolution of the spindle. This is how threads on bolts are made.

I checked out buying a vintage QCGB but they are hundreds of dollars. My lathe may not even accept one unmodified. So I considered building one. The cost of the gears was prohibitive. So I considered making the gears and decided it wasn't happening - making gears is a lot of work and I don't have the tooling. In short, I ran into a dead end.

The other option to was to computerize the lathe. I don't want a computer in the shop as I program for a living - I don't want to do it at home, too. But perhaps I could sneak in some electronics.

And thus begins the story of my virtual QCGB. The basic idea is instead of having the spindle drive the leadscrew through a train of gears and a 'trasmission', I'll collect signals from the leadscrew and use these to drive a stepper motor which turns the leadscrew appropriately. Such conversions are actually pretty common. Most solutions, however, involve the use of a computer in the shop and are basically low-end CNC. My goal is a very spartan implementation so the computer isn't needed.

The only thing that is holding me back is that I know zip about electronics. Other than that, and my lack of knowledge of mechanics, I'm good. But my pal Marco is basically a mad scientist. When I mentioned my idea, he gave me a box of electronics parts and supplies. Then I bought a bunch of stuff he told me I needed including some common IC chips, proto boards, and selections of resistors and capacitors.

With some guidance from Marco and the web I made my first circuit. It just lit an LED. My next circuit used the ubiquitous 555 timer chip to make the LED pulse about once a second. No great shakes - examples are all over the web. I did the math just the same.

I liked that circuit, so I set it aside and pulled out another small protoboard. I added a 4040 counter chip. I salvaged some LEDs from a death ray or something Marco built back in the late '40s when he lived in Roswell. The end result is that I could use the 555 to drive the 4040 which in turn made some LEDs flash. Oooo pretty. Here's an early version:



Later on I pulled to 4040 (the larger IC to the left) off and moved it to the same board as the LEDs. Now I have a self-contained counter module to use for my next experiments.

The reason I started with the 555 and 4040 is that, when creating an electronic QCGB, you have to add an encoder wheel to the spindle. As the spindle turns, it generates a series of pulses. While I'll eventually have to work up the full pulse generation circuit, for now the 555 can simulate this. The 4040 is interesting to me not because it counts or makes LEDs light up, but because half of the real QCGB deals with dividing spindle speeds by 2, 4, 8, etc. The pins on the counter do exactly the same thing. Thus I have already done a proof-of-concept on an important part of my electronic QCGB. Referring to the picture above, the rightmost LED is on. This LED is connected to the 'divide by 2' pin on the 4040. Visually, that LED lights on every 2nd pulse from the 555. So if I wanted to slow the leadscrew down by half, I would tap the output from this pin. Similarly, by tapping the pin associated with the leftmost LED, I'd slow the leadscrew down by a factor of 128! I might use that to make a nice finishing pass, after all the heavy material removal has happened.

Lessons learned so far -
1. If you don't protect LEDs with a resistor, they die.
2. If you leave a 4040's reset pin floating (not connected to a ground) you'll get funky results.
3. Wire kits for prototype boards just rock.

My next series of experiments will likely be a proof-of-concept of an encoder wheel for the spindle. This is an opaque disk with equally spaced holes in it near the rim. As the wheel turns on the spindle, a stationary LED shines through the holes producing sort of a strobe effect. The light flashes fall on a phototransistor which generates a pulse we can use to drive the counter previously built. Will a good pulse be generated? How small can the hole be? How quickly can the holes pass in front of the LED and still let enough light through to produce a usable pulse?

I haven't a clue. Yet.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Replacing Atlas/Craftsman Part 9-11

The Atlas/Craftsman 12" metal lathe is a decent lathe for what it is - an entry level machine for the home shop hobbyist. This lathe was manufactured to meet a price point, not to be a professional quality lathe. One of the innovations employed in manufacture of this lathe was the use of a material called Zamak for many of the secondary parts such as change gears and handles. The idea was that die casting these parts from Zamak would save money and machining time. And it did.

Zamak, being an amalgam of zinc, aluminum, manganese, and copper is a reasonably durable alloy. It's stable, easy to cast, and plates well. Many common parts do very well when made of Zamac. But machines get bumped and banged. The Zamak parts broke much easier than their iron counterparts. When Atlas stopped making these lathes, inexpensive Zamak replacement parts largely disappeared too. Now the main assumption of Zamak - that replacement parts would be readily available and inexpensive - has become invalid. It's common to see Craftsman lathes will all manner of innovative replacements for broken Zamak parts. For example, when I bought my lathe the cross slide handwheel had been replaced with a water spigot knob.

But really, for the most part, the Zamak is ok. If a handle breaks after 70 years of use, well, you have a lathe, make another. There is one part, however, where the use of Zamak was downright egregious. And that is part 9-11, a housing that holds secure the pinion that connects the handwheel on the apron to rack. When you turn the handwheel, the carriage should move up and down the lathe bed. When part 9-11 breaks, and it will, parts fall out the bottom of the apron and your carriage gets all sad.

Here's a link to a document for my lathe. Refer to the "page 2" link - you can find part 9-11 at the bottom.

Here's a few images of part 9-11. This one doesn't fit my lathe, unfortunately. The lathe's original owner bought it without knowing that it fit a later model of the lathe.





The problem is this is a spindly part that gets a lot of lateral pressure applied to it. It never should have been made of Zamak, or at least not with this shape. The "legs" tend to break.

When I saw the part was missing, I checked Ebay, the easiest source for many Craftsman lathe parts. Since there is such a demand for 9-11 replacements the price is pretty high. I decided I would not pay top dollar for an antique Zamak part with a history of breaking. The only solution was to make a replacement.

Here's the diagram I worked from. All measurements are in decimal inches. Almost all measurements are multiples of 1/16". It was a simpler time.



The first image shows the bracket in place. There are three important things to note. First, notice the disruption of the aluminum where the axle passes through. That's because there is only a few mils of aluminum remaining there. Second, notice how the handwheel's small gear nestles in the angled area milled out of the bracket. Third, notice the poor fit of the large gear to the handwheel gear. The reason is in the notes below. Don't do what I did - I am still trying to remedy this.



Here's a view from the above front right, if it were in the apron. You can see the angled relief where the handwheel gear will fit.



Finally, here's a view from below. You can see the channel for the leadscrew.




Here are the instructions. The operations are all straight-forward. I had access to a mill. This would be hard to make otherwise.

  1. Acquire the large gear, small gear, and axle you see in the 9-11 pictures above. If you have a broken 9-11, you can salvage these. You will need to get one of the gears off the axle. Try an arbor press. On the 9-11 in the pictures above, the gears are peened on.
  2. Make the aluminum block. The width is extremely important. If it's too wide the gears will pinch the bracket when pressed on.
  3. Mark the location of the 1/2" hole. This is likely the most important measurement.
  4. Bore the 1/2" hole.
  5. Mill away the relief for the large gear. The depth must be at least the thickness of the large gear and the handwheel gear.
  6. Mill the "ears" through which the 1/4" bolts will pass. The depth of these was determined by the length of the bolts I had available. YMMV. You may not even need to add the ears at all if you use long bolts.
  7. Mill the leadscrew relief channel. When the channel intersects the axle hole you can stop. Removing more will not help.
  8. Put the axle in the bracket and carefully press the gears onto it. Check for a good fit before doing so. This will be hard to lubricate so add some ├╝ber grease to the axle now. NOTE - the axle is NOT symmetrical. Be sure you orient it correctly.
  9. Put some layout blue on the bracket where it touches the apron, where the 1/4" bolts will pass. Put spacers between the mating gears so they will mesh correctly. Many people use paper scraps. Push the bracket firmly into position on the lathe. The gears on the bracket should engage the rack and the handwheel gear. Have a helper mark the bolt hole locations using a transfer punch.
  10. Bore the two holes for the 1/4" bolts.

Notes, in no particular order.
  1. I don't know how long this part will last. I am an amateur. Caveat Emptor.
  2. The part I am showing is a replacement for part 9-11 from an Atlas/Craftsman 12" lathe made in about 1937. It has no powered crossfeed and a 5/8" leadscrew. If your lathe if newer or different, you'll certainly have to make changes. If you have an identical lathe, you'll probably have to make changes :-D
  3. As far as I know, the design is correct. But you can probably find 100 improvements.
  4. I made mine from aluminum scrap. If you have iron or steel, all the better.
  5. The biggest mistake I made was drilling the 1/4" holes too soon. This should be the last thing you do. Drilling them last allows you to position the bracket on the lathe in exactly the right spot. I drilled my holes first and had the unenviable task of making sure both gears and both bolts all lined up. They didn't. So I got out a file... It was a big time-sucking mistake.
  6. When you prepare the part for the final fit, pushing it upward will make it engage the rack. Pushing it back and forth will make it engage and disengage the handwheel's gear.
  7. From the front view, you see the channel at the bottom. That channel is necessary for leadscrew clearance. It channel will just intersect the 1/2" hole you bored for the axle. Yes, the part is nearly cut in two. The Zamak part also has a divot out of the axle area. Anyway, if you can reduce the width of the channel, you'll strengthen the part. I didn't have the tooling.
  8. Most of the dimensions are non-critical. You need to get the 1/2" axle hole pretty close. The width of the part is also critical or the gears will pinch it or slide back and forth. The milled area must be deep enough to accommodate the large gear that attached to the axle.
  9. Go slow when you press the large and small gears onto the 1/2" axle. Mine fit great - I got lucky. It's possible that if your bracket isn't wide enough the gears will be pressed against the aluminum and turn very stiffly. To be avoided.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Retiring a flag

There's always a flag flying at our house. Recently I noticed that it was pretty wind-whipped and faded. So what do you do with an old flag? Throwing it in the trash seems disrespectful - and it is. Instead, you should retire the flag. In this context, retire means to properly decommission and destroy the flag.

One option is to neatly fold the flag and drop it off at the local firehouse or boy scout troop. They'll know what to do.

If you want to do it yourself, here's one way. Get the flag and go to a quiet spot and get comfortable. Take your knife or scissors and cut the grommets off the flag. Keep the grommets - they are good luck. I always keep some in my truck. Then cut from the flag the rest of the grommet strip. It's annoying and isn't part of the flag. Now you're ready to begin.

Cut the field (the blue part with the stars) out of the flag. While you're doing this, remember to thank your lucky stars that you're in the US of A. Take the time to think of something that shows how fortunate you are. Maybe it's that you get your choice of news sources. Or to have more than one candidate to vote for. Or that our water is clean and our roads are smooth. I don't take much for granted. While you're thinking these thoughts, cut the field into 4 or 9 pieces. Try to make them the same size and keep the cuts straight and square - we're not shredding trash here.

Now cut the stripes into alternating red and white strips of fabric. Take your time. While you're doing this, look at those red strips and think about the men and women who have bled to make sure our lives are soft and easy. Those red strips are like a ribbons stretching through time from the Revolutionary War through the current Middle East conflicts. The common thread is that for the last 235 years soldiers have bled for this country to protect our way of life and things we hold dear. If you're one of these people, please accept my gratitude. If you're not, you owe a debt you can't repay. Please, do not waste their blood.

Think about the white strips. These could represent everyone in the country. All the people, interwoven with the blood of patriots. I mean your neighbor, the Mexican guy who you saw at the corner market this morning, the impatient Hindu guy in traffic, your co-workers, the crossing-guard lady... everyone. There is no other place where so many different people are welcomed. While it isn't always easy, I am convinced our diversity is a tremendous strength. Think about the cacophony that is America's People and drink it in.

Take the longest red strip and set it aside. Cut the rest of the strips into pieces about long as those pieces from the field. Put them inside the blue squares. Place the whole thing on the red strip you set aside earlier and tie it up into a tight bundle.

Now you no longer have a flag. You have a small bundle of fabric. You can place it in the trash now.

Be sure to get your new flag up as soon as you can.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Life as a Programming Contractor

Gig #1 was at a place called Resonant Vibes. The staff is cool bunch of people who are very much in to their music. I was certainly the old guy there. The enthusiasm of the staff was infectious and I found myself getting into it. The contract expired and that was that.

Gig #2 is interesting in that i has helped me to understand contractors I hired previously. Now I have the hankering to bring more coffee to work. I say, "I'll do it any way you want" a lot, and have no vested interests in one approach or another. If I think one approach is better, I say so and I say why. Then I do what I am asked. Also, employees don't talk to contractors. Employees don't make a lot of eye contact with contractors. They don't ask us to join them for lunch. And I think it's awesome. How absolutely freeing it is to go to work... and just work. Immersion in the problem with no BS, no interruptions no hassles. None of the stuff that reduces the efficiency of the employees.

In addition to the beneficial detachment, I'm enjoying the constant change and challenge. There's always something new. As an example, my current boss wanted some graphics displayed from a database. But he wanted a copyright watermark placed on each one. I hadn't a clue how to do it. So I was forced to spend a pleasurable 2 hours figuring it out and implementing it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hey! Where'd my job go!

I don't like to rush in to anything so I thought I make my first posting of 2009. Being the Most Boring Person Ever, I really don't have that much to say.

Anyway, as of 1/9/09, I found myself unemployed. When you work at a web start-up you are totally delusional if you don't expect to be laid off every day. Sadly, my day came up. I was working for some pals. My boss was more upset about it than I was. He's a softy.

My big lesson was taking a month off turned my brain into mush. I was surprised by how quickly I was losing my edge. When I started some contract work it hit me like a sledgehammer. So now my neck hurts. But I'm getting smarter again.