Canned Heat II: The Jig

Canned Heat I was published several months ago. To catch you up to date includes 2 flocks of chickens decimated by an 11 year old dog and a summer garden.

We finally got the chicken/dog issue straightened out. But the fact that chicks were sharing my work space and I wasn’t going to run power-tools and use chemical sealants around them, meant the Mister saw no need to make a jig if I wasn’t going to use it immediately. The upshot is, I am just now getting around to the 2nd phase of the project.

So after cleaning the cans I set up a jig on the drill press to take out the bottom of each can. Initially this consisted of a board bolted to the table on the drill press with a groove routed out.

After a couple of tests, in which I realized how much torque (twist) the hole saw created I had to figure out how to keep the can stable while the saw was cutting the bottoms. I hit upon this configuration:

This was held onto the table with 2 vice grip clamps. The Gorilla Tape helped to fill the space to create a snug fit, but was slick enough to allow the can to be inserted and removed smoothly. The bevel in the back allows the can to fit, as the hole saw was long enough to interfere with placing the can into the jig.

Note the sheet-rock screw. I found that if you put the screw inside the can opening and twist it until the side of the opening touches the screw, you simply have to hold the can down. This means you don’t have to squeeze the can to prevent it from spinning and you avoid crushing the can.

I used a 1.5″ bi-metal hole saw.

Please wear gloves and safety glasses. Drilling creates a lot of metal shavings. They are sharp and small and would not be pleasant under the skin.

Next, I needed to cut the tops to allow more air flow. You don’t want holes that are as big as the can, nor do you want them to align perfectly. Large, perfectly aligned openings, allow the air to move through too quickly for the air to make much contact with the warmed metal . So using a tin snips and cutting the top into a series of tabs will allow you to bend some of the tabs. The bent tabs create baffles, which creates turbulence in the air flow. This turbulence causes the air to touch the warmed metal more often, resulting in warmer air.

Next you will want to push some of the tabs down. Please don’t use fingers. I use an old stand by that you probably already have on hand: an inexpensive can opener.

So, all that done, I needed a jig to hold the cans in place while the adhesive cured.  I’ve seen people use angle iron and other types of contraptions, but the main idea is the keep the cans stable and in line while the sealant sets up.

And, although I love the Mister, he has a tendency to …*ahem* over build things. (At least in my humble opinion) And the jig for the cans was no exception. All I needed was two 2×4’s joined to form a right angle. But nooooo….. I got a fancy jig instead. One that took a lot longer to build, but I’m not sure works any better. But, at least he got the job done. Sometimes that’s all you can ask.

So we’ve jumped ahead a bit with this picture, but I just wanted to show you the basic idea.

I’m using a sealant for roof flashing. It is U.V. and heat resistant. It takes 24 hours to cure before painting, hence the need for a jig to held it in place. I’ve found it best to apply sealant to several cans at once, then place them in the jig, making sure that the cans are seated one atop the other and in contact with the sides of the jig. Use enough to adhere the tops and bottoms together, but not so much that you have to do a lot of clean up after the sealant dries.

I can do about 1 1/3 stacks a day. So, in less than two weeks I should be able to the 16 stacks needed for the heating unit.

I’ll try to be a little more timely with the next part of the project. Stay tuned.

Finally…I understand the stock market.

And no, this is not some sarcastic screed on the “Wall Street Casino”. I finally found somebody who could explain the mysterious vagaries of the waxing and waning of the market terms that even an artist can understand. Probably because there are lots of pictures. And because the meat of the “book” is only about 50 pages long… in large type.

It’s more of a detailed pamphlet really.

The author, Daniel Arnold, is just a smart guy who wanted to know how to make his money work for him after he retired. He was an electrical and bio-mechanical engineer who had worked for GE for a number of years. He was good at understanding process and the importance of how the pieces fit together. So, with some time on his hands, he started looking at basic, publicly available economic information and began utilizing the data in a way that developed into a very interesting theory.

He started from the assumption that you always hear brokers and stock houses hammering home to investors. One shouldn’t look at how a stock does over a short period of time. Instead, they should look at the long range performance. But the people he listened to or read weren’t talking about long range trends. They were all focused on short term trends and short term results.

When one looks at long term economic flux, there are a lot of theories to choose from. One of my favorites is a long-range theory from a Russian economist named Nikolai Kondratiev. He was tasked with “proving” capitalism could not last because it was a flawed system. What he found instead was that the economies of capitalist countries waxed and waned; although he did not or could not offer a suitable explanation as to why this occurred.

These findings were seen as having the potential to undermine Stalin’s plans for the Soviet Union, so he was sent to the Gulag and sentenced to death. But, his findings align with Arnold’s findings quite nicely. But, Arnold’s prime cause for the fluctuations are a far simpler, more elegant and intuitive explanation than the ones offered by economists trying to find an explanation for the Kondratiev “Wave”.

Any artist or scientist or mathematician will tell you that there in a beauty, a “rightness” to certain solutions. The pieces all fit; like a puzzle. As I read this pamphlet, I kept having those “Ah, that makes sense.” moments that never came while I was studying other economic theories.

So I’ll give you the most basic and important part of his theory here and if you want to read more you can go to his website: The Great Bust Ahead

Let me say first though, as an artist, I will tell you now, the site screams “SCAM”, and if I had seen the site first it would have been easy for me to dismiss the pamphlet as sleazy profiteering. But I’ll give him a pass. He’s an engineer and may not realize how visual cues lead people to certain unconscious conclusions.

The data he presents is easily accessed through public files at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CIA fact files and the INS. So if you have doubt, get the information and crunch the numbers yourself.

Finally down to the nub of it.
In a nutshell:

  • The GDP (gross domestic product) is, in the simplest definition, You and I spending money.

Here he uses Fully Industrialized Democratic Nations (FIDN) as the basis of this data point. The more people, the more they spend, the higher the GDP. And it holds true.

  • If there is a group within the given population of a country that spends more money, they are the main driver of a “good” economy.
  • The age group comprising the biggest spenders in these FIDN is the 45 to 54 year olds.

Why? We are at our peak earning power at this age. We buy cars, we buy houses, we have kids with the attendant school, medical, college expenses. So we are also at the years of our peak expenditures.

  • The strength of the economy rises and falls as generational cohorts come into or move out of this peak earning/expenditure age.

He takes birth data and census data back to the 1920’s and follows the 45-54 year old cohort, correlating it with the rise and fall of the stock market. He has to make adjustments for inflation, but there is an incredibly tight correlation between the peak earning 45-54 demographic and stock market performance.

Until the 1960’s. It took him a while to suss out why the shift occurred. It was the Pill. It allowed women to forestall childbearing. And keeping it basic here, we won’t go into the economic ramifications. Suffice it to say that he adjusted for the data and the correlation resumed its lockstep behavior.

He found he also had to adjust for immigration. He notes that the average age of immigrants to this country is 30 years of age. And once they are assimilated, earning money, making families, they contribute to the upward trend of the stock market in the same way as a birth cohort.

This chart shows the correlations, but there seems to be some divergence in the data. My guess is that if he could find a way to account for illegal immigrants, who contribute to the economy as much as any other worker, it would, once again fall back into alignment.

Sorry about the smudge in the lower left....

I’d like you to notice that after 2010 there is a precipitous drop in the number of people in the 45-54 year old cohort. The Baby Boomers are busting. They are no longer at peak earning power, the kids have gone to college (and come home) and there is a gap of quite a few years until another peak earning demographic comes into prominence.

So, what does that mean? Well, if the trend holds, it means a precipitous drop in the market. It means a long depression. It means a very long, very tough road for people over 50.

So, now that you understand how the stock market works, you can see that we have been trying to put the cart before the horse. Jobs and wages create disposable income. Disposable income creates a thriving economy. And that is simply all there is to it.

No magic. No fractal Elliot Waves. No Wall Street Wizards or brokers who can earn you lots of cash. If you want to get rich in the stock market, make sure people have jobs and money to spend. Then when a generational cohort hits age 40, get in the market. When they hit 50+, get out.


Presenting the: It’s HOT – It’s Africa HOT – Tarzan couldn’t stand this kind of heat – Edition of the Lazy Cook

When you don’t have Air Conditioning and it’s this freakin’ hot, the last thing you want to do is cook. Well, the last thing you want to do is move. But even in the Lazy Cook’s household, food prep can sometimes include movement.

And while we eat a lot of cold salads and watermelon in hotter weather, those foods don’t tend to “last” in the tummy. It’s the cooler version of Chinese food: 20 minutes later and you are hungry again. So, how do we resolve that problem? The Lazy Way of course.

Here is a picture tutorial for a cooked vegetarian curry that doesn’t require heating up the house with… heat.

The dish: a nice Corning Ware casserole with lid. The lid is a necessary part of the endeavor, so keep that in mind when following this recipe.

To fill this casserole you will need the following:

About 2 cups of Vegetable Broth, or about 1/2 of this container (Chicken stock is good if you aren’t going vegetarian on this one). Wolfgang Puck brand isn’t necessary, I’m just showing off that I got this at Big Lots for $1.50

1 cup of coconut milk or about 1/2 the can:

3 or 4 tender summer squash from the garden, cubed.

Sweet pepper, chopped. This is probably about 1/2 a cup.

A medium onion chopped. (Hello Kitty bowl is not required) And since I had some curried okra canned up from last year, I thought “Why not?”.

Red Curry Paste. I get mine at the Asian Market for about .60 cents a can.

You’ll use a tablespoon, more or less, depending on how hot you like it. Add it to the broth and coconut milk in the casserole. Mix well. This will keep you from getting lumps of paste in your curry. ‘Cause stirring it while its cooking  is too…  hot.

You can add salt at any time to your taste. But at least 1/2 teaspoon. You can add in the chopped vegetables at this point, along with cubed extra firm tofu and cubed carrots. Try cutting them into smaller bits than shown here.

Once you’ve got it all in there, it should resemble this:

Pepper is optional, I just added it as an afterthought. Now for the lid.

Let’s look at the time. Okay 11:30 ish… so we’ll get this in well before noon.

Now into the cooker.

And to set the temperature, we simply go over…

and make it so.

Serve with brown rice, white rice or millet, along with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Enjoy.

The Royals are Reptilians and I’m an Alien-Human Hybrid

It’s times like this that it becomes abundantly clear that I am either a changeling or an alien-human hybrid. Somehow, against all the impulses of the herd I have been born into, I am completely disinterested in the social life of people who have status merely by dint of being the product of the chance meeting between a lucky sperm and egg.

Not only that, I have never been able to comprehend how regular people can be so engrossed in the personal lives of those whose existence is completely foreign to their own, in terms of power, wealth and privilege. Frankly, it wouldn’t occur to a Royal to look your way if gazes were air and you were suffocating to death.

We are not amused.

A couple of years back the Queen’s solution to the deficit in the Palace heating budget was to raid the fund used to feed the poor. She can’t put on another sweater like regular folks, she has to heat her Palace with the bodies of the starving. Her Ministers had to explain why this would be a bad idea.

I need you to think about this concept: Her Ministers had to explain why taking food away from poor people who would starve without it, was bad. In other words, the idea that it was morally or ethically questionable had never crossed her mind.

This is the group people around the world are obsessing over; waxing rhapsodic about? These people, who have never been particularly talented, intelligent, beautiful or industrious. From what I have observed, their sense of public decorum is about on par with the average “man on the street”. What merit affords them the attention of 1/3rd of the worlds population?

Given that the chances of a mere “commoner” interacting with them in any meaningful way is practically null, I would find it exceedingly helpful if someone could explain in clear, concise terms, exactly why anyone should care about anything they choose to do?

The difference between hoarders and artists

Artists and hoarders share an important quality: we love stuff. It gives us a deep sense of rightness, of satisfaction to have this scrap or that bit and to know we will always have access to it.

It is very difficult to describe what objects draw us and become necessary. But that gut feeling of connection is a common thread.

The difference, however, between hoarders and artists is that very often, artists will actually utilize the things we drag home. Sometimes they become sculpture, sometimes we wear them, sometimes they become still life objects and sometimes we just slap on a coat of paint and call it a day.

We understand that these things have purpose. They are living in the sense that they will change over time. They are, very often, intended to change over time; to become worn and comfortable.

When you put something in a box or put it away for safekeeping, you deny that “life” by fixing the thing in time and space. So, in a sense, artist are the crazy cat ladies of stuff. We take in all sorts of strays, we feed them, we work with them and we appreciate them for the life they’ve had. We appreciate them for what they are and more importantly, for what they realistically could be; without romance or illusion. Because that is part of our job as artists, to see things as they are.

That said, let me introduce you to my latest rescue. An early 60’s era dresser, all wood. Not an ounce of chipboard.


Forgive the picture. Our bedroom is dark and the remodeling is ongoing.

I spotted this lovely as I was driving through a neighborhood, trying to avoid backed up traffic from a downtown construction project. It was in the midst of a pile of discarded furniture from a rental move-out. There was also a mattress(urine soaked, as it turned out), a couple of flimsy chipboard end-tables and some well loved plastic kids toys.

I immediately flipped on my turn indicator to signal the Mister, who was behind me, that we needed to pull over. I made a U-turn (illegally) and pulled up beside his truck window.

Windows down we discussed.

Me: “Do you think that dresser is any good?”
Mr.:”What dresser?”
Me: “60’s era, brown, stickers”
Mr.:”Didn’t see it.”
Me:”Let’s go look.”

So he pulled around behind me and we pulled up in front of the house.

The family was still taking items out to their car. So I motioned to an older man among them and asked if we could take the dresser. He nodded, so I started to inspect it. It was passable. But I’d need to take it home and take out all the drawers to see if it was worth refinishing.

We opened the hatch on the wagon, lowered the middle seats and popped it in.

I’d love to tell you that when I picked it up it looked like it looks in the picture. But no.

Mud brown shellac. Decals, stickers, reflectors all over the drawer faces. The drawer pulls were original, but bulky and  wooden. The drawers were all out of wrack with various splits in the sides from roofing nails being used to try and “repair” it.

But beneath all that, the lines were clean. It was well proportioned. The wood was solid and whole. Definitely worth salvaging.

So, I stripped it, glued the splits, repaired the drawers and found a beautiful deep mulberry color to paint it. And while I was buying paint,  I found some elegant matte black pulls with a fine copper edging that played off the mulberry very nicely.

I did have some issues with the paint and varnish. I liked the flatness of the mulberry paint. But it was going to be prone to scratching and streaking. So I decided to use a satin polyurethane varnish…mostly because it was what I had on hand.

I hated the varnish. It was too glossy and since I don’t have a clean room (or a ventilated one for that matter), I was forced to work outside. So the varnish dried too fast and left a textured surface.

My solution? Mix the paint and the polyurethane to keep some of the flat of the paint and some of the protection of the polyurethane with a slower drying time to allow for the  paint to level.

So, yes, I could’ve bought something at Ikea. Something clean and new and frankly, on an artist’s budget, expensive. But this dresser has already had a life, a history. And now, for better or worse, I have become a part of that.

A hoarder only wants to see things as they were. An artist sees things as they were and as they potentially could be. It has always been the play, the tension between reality and potential that excites us.

Spring at Island Ford Art 2011

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1st collector for Spring at Island Ford Art 2011
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Calico and Dogwood


Calico exploring the dogwood tree.

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Mel Gibson has left the building. (heading directly to the chicken coop)

6 weeks ago, give or take couple of days, I picked up a small flock of day old chicks. You couldn’t even call them a flock at that point. They were more of a flick of a flock.

(Possibly) Mel Gibson as a day old chick with consort.

I decided to house them in my studio/basement until they were ready to move to their permanent home in the chicken coop. We had several reasons for using this strategic location:
a) it was out of the way
b) I could control the type and amount of traffic i.e. we have 6 cats and 2.75 dogs (don’t ask)
c) I wouldn’t have to travel too far to get to them if need arose

For the most part, their individual temperaments had shown through from day one. And those traits only grew stronger as the days passed. The skittish ones didn’t get braver, the bossy ones refined their technique and the curious, inquisitive ones kept drawing to mind the Monty Python quote: “…that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep.”

Their feathers and beak coloring began to come in at about 2 weeks. It was at that point that I began to notice one of the cockerels. Mostly because he was incredibly reckless and stupidly brave. And the pullets, like swooning adolescent fans, seemed to adore him.

I started calling him Mel Gibson right after he did a Brave Heart run across the small pen at me and my American Dingo dog, Sunny Boy Red. He had perceived some threat to his flock. And no matter that we were dozens of times his size and that one of us has a set of rather pointed canines, he charged us like he was going to kick our collective butts.

All of this bluster earned a fair bit of admiration from yours truly. I’m all about the Berserker method as a form of self-defense. Even so, it drew into focus a series of rather pointed political questions on the wisdom of having a charismatic, reckless rooster in charge of the hens you are counting on for eggs.

Yes, he could protect them; from snakes and probably from the cats, if need be. But if he somehow discovered or devised an escape from his confines, would he lead the girls into an overwhelmingly dangerous situation?

Most likely yes. And so, it looked like Mel Gibson was slated for the chopping block.

We had planned for this eventuality; getting a few more chicks than we actually needed. One has to face the harsh fact that, sometimes, some of them just don’t make it to adulthood. Some of them are deformed, or picked on to the point of needing to be removed, or sometimes you get a rooster that goes “cockeyed”. In other words, he becomes dangerously unmanageable.

I had figured, all along, that one of the 2 cockerels would be more suited to keeping the kind of flock I felt would bring us mutual benefit. And I was pretty sure Mel wasn’t that guy. He didn’t seem unmanageable, just a little…edgy.

But, luckily for Mel, one of my kin decided a couple of chickens would be just the thing. So, happy ending, Mel and 3 of his ardent admirers will be moving house in the next few weeks.

I had planned to put everybody in our chicken run last week. They were 5 weeks old and all feathered in. The weather was quite warm, in the 80’s on a couple of days. But with temperatures dipping to 32 degrees and a late snow coming in, I hesitated in making that drastic a change to their environs.

But the natives were getting restless. Mel had gotten in the habit of perching on top of the watering tray, and pooping in it. It was the highest point in the pen and evidently that’s the cockerel version of “Look, I’m driving an expensive sports car”.

I responded by rigging a cap made of takeout trays that was taller and wider than he could negotiate. No more poo in the water. Issue resolved.

The problem with reckless and clever creatures who are also bored is they soon figure out a way to hack your hack. Soon, I was coming in to find the water tray overturned and a bunch of thirsty, slightly freaked-out chickens.

Mel Gibson in the Chicken Run on the Watering Tray in Question

But I only had to buck up til this weekend and they would be more than old enough to deal with any weather swings. Being in the midst of a pollen-induced sinus attack had me bed-ridden and in no mood for moving house and clearing the basement.

Mel Gibson wasn’t waiting that long.

Here is how I imagine it went down:
Mel got bored. He decided to show off for the girls by perching on the water tray. The tray tipped over, as usual, and somebody completely freaked out. This freaked everybody else out and although this wasn’t  The Station, somebody bum rushed the “door”, tipping the fencing, increasing the panic and setting the fully feathered flock into flight.

So, this morning, I rouse myself, drag my 50 lb head out of the bed and stumble down to the studio. I open the door and find that the pen has been “deconstructed” and there are chickens all over the basement. Subsequently there is poo all over the basement.

I stand stock still doing a head count. I hear hidden peeps from beneath furniture, from behind buckets, but the majority of the flock are in plain sight.

I open the dog crate I’ve been using to house them while I clean the pen. I start calling softly: “Chicker, chicker, chicker…” Then, I pick up Mel Gibson and put him in the crate.

I’ve found the easiest way to get the flock to co-operate is to press the cockerels into service. If the boys are in one place, the girls will shortly follow.

As soon as all were crated, counted and calm, I walked them over to the chicken run. I took Mel Gibson out, set him on the ground and as he walked off there was a rush out the crate door. Silly girls.

I’m acceding to their decision. They are only 2 days away from being 6 weeks old. More than old enough to stand a little evening cold. The coop is snug with lots of hay and leaves to snuggle down in. They should have no problems.

Besides, I can always run a lamp out there if I get too worried.


Mel Gibson assessing the threat level.

Ode to the Vernal Equinox

Spring Arrived
on March 20th
at 7 p.m.
in the windbreak
of the Big Value Supermarket.
Downtown, on Main Street.

Crowded into the tiny break
on the cold concrete floor
packed tight around soda machines
and gumball vendors,
were row upon row
of full-bloomed pansies
in flimsy plant trays.
Spring pre-packaged
in disposable, black plastic.

fat, wet snow
piled on cars and roads
and numb post-work
It was twilight.
Roads were treacherous.
No one was in the mood
for flowers.

The blooms swayed
as electric doors
gusted winter with the passing
of each snow-flecked customer
and sat
each looking,
for all the world,
like a young girl stood up
on the evening
of her very first date.

(March 1997)

Spread of the Radioactive Cloud of Fukushima

From the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics

Project Path of Radioative Particulates

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