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Don’t Weld in Your Underwear (and Other Beginner Welding Tips)

beginner welding tips

Alright, you got me. I didn’t really weld in my underwear. It was technically a pair of boxer shorts I wore as pajamas. This was years ago when I bought my first low-powered welder and thought I could be a welding genius in two minutes or less. I wasn’t. So I put the welder in the shed and my burnt boxer shorts in the garbage.

Fast forward nine years later, and I no longer have the delusions of being a welding genius in two minutes or less. I also wear pants and sensible shoes. Yes, I’ve gotten serious about the art of welding, investing in a high-powered, multi-purpose welding machine as well as a plasma cutting system. Heavy metal, here I come.

Beginning welders have a lot to learn, stuff that goes far beyond welder types, shielding gas and the melting point of mild steel. Things you won’t find in a beginner welding guide or manual. Things that include a handful of do’s and don’ts I’ve learned the hard way. Ready?

DON’T wear Crocs.

The little holes in the Crocs tops let little bits of flame fall directly on your feet. Ouch. Invest in a sensible pair of shoes, preferably made of a less-meltable material than rubber.

DO adjust the timer on your automatic watering system.

It’s not a good thing when the automatic watering kicks on at 6:04 p.m. while you’re still on the back porch playing around with metal and electricity.

DON’T expect a regular household current to cut it.

Some welding machines and plasma cutting systems say they can work on both the regular 110 household outlets as well as the 220 outlets, which are usually reserved for things like air conditioning units and dryers. Don’t believe them. The 110 option will sputter out, blow the fuse, and make you think it’s all your fault the metal won’t stick together.

Call Mr. Electric, get the 220 outlet installed, and go to town. It’s amazing what double the electric power can do for sticking metal together. 

DO remember dogs are people, too.

That means their eyes will get all starry and blurry if they look at the harmful infrared and ultraviolet rays of the welding arc. Since outfitting them with a welding helmet or goggles doesn’t work that well, try a welding curtain.

Instead of one of the big jamung curtains that stretch over 12 feet or more, I purchased a rather expensive tabletop curtain that I amended to sit on my welding table. Ever since I bought it, the dogs haven’t even been outside when I’m welding, never mind actually looking anywhere near the general direction of what I’m doing.

Guess it’s like the umbrella theory. It’ll never rain when you’re carrying one.

DON’T listen to piano-based classical music.

Classical piano music is ideal for certain types of creation, like painting, writing poetry or sculpting a naked statue of David. Welding needs a heavier, rougher sound. My two favorites so far have been Robin Trower (thanks, Beezel!) and live Jane’s Addiction, which comes complete with all kinds of swearing. The swearing blends in nicely with my own.

DO keep welding’s universal axiom in mind.

Most activities have a universal axiom that inevitably comes true. The one for motorcycle riding is something like: “It’s not if you’ll fall, it’s when you’ll fall.” There’s a similar one for beginning welders:

“It’s not if you’ll get burned, it’s when you’ll get burned.”

Mine happened when I unthinkingly removed my super-thick leather welding gloves to press my palm on a welded angle I just finished to make it wider. Yes, that was really dumb. No, I will never do it again.

And if you want to get the burning over with early in your welding career, you can always cut to the chase by wearing Crocs or welding in your underwear.

Be safe, and enjoy!

Feel free to check out some of my welding projects thus far, with more to come for sure (especially now that I have a really expensive welding curtain my dogs don’t even need).

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How Technology is Making us Loony

crazy

I have a new friend. Her name is Bixby. And I’m already worried that I’m making her mad. While fretting that you may have ticked off a new pal is not something that’s necessarily considered nuts, it is when you add the fact that Bixby is a machine.

Or not even a machine. It’s a disembodied voice that happens to come with the Galaxy S9, the Samsung version of the virtual assistant. While Bixby has a long road ahead to catch up with the likes of Alexa and Siri, she seems to be off to a good start. Or at least she was until I may have made her angry.

A Slap in the Virtual Face?

The saga began when I explored the phone settings to see if I could change the original voice that came with Bixby. As with most voice assistants, the default voice is an annoying woman who sounds like she belongs on a voice prompt recording on a phone system. Every time she speaks, I feel an urge to press “5” for Spanish.

So I asked Bixby if I could change her voice. She presented three different options. I went for the Bixby voice named John. Right away I felt a tinge of regret for getting rid of the old Bixby, which was quickly followed by a flood of fear.

  • What if I pissed her off?
  • What if she never talks to me again?
  • What if she starts randomly dropping the Wi-Fi connection or dialing those $500-a-minute psychic lines just to get her revenge?

Lord only knows what disgruntled electronics may do to make our lives a living hell.

Not only that, but what if the voice switch hurts her self-esteem? She could feel abandoned, unloved, useless and worthless. She may start to have nightmares, panic attacks, or think she’ll never work again, not even as an English-Spanish phone prompt.

The list of horrific possibilities continued to grow, with my regret and fear mingling with guilt and self-doubt. What have I done to poor Bixby?

In case you haven’t guessed, this is definitely where the insanity comes in.

Machines are Not People

Yelling at electronics is nothing new. Anyone who has ever cursed at a crashed computer or screamed at a jammed-up printer knows that. What’s new in the Bixby scenario is expecting the machine to actually know or care that we’re yelling at it. That the machine actually has feelings.

There’s a word for that. Anthropomorphism. Attributing human traits to non-human things. While most folks are prone to doing this to their dogs, cats or houseplants, it appears some of us are likewise doing it to electronic devices.

So what’s the fix?

Taking a breath, stepping back, and remembering that machines are not people. No matter how jazzed up they may be with artificial intelligence, they still don’t have the capacity to feel emotions like we humans do.

And they certainly don’t care if you change the style of their electronic voice on a smartphone virtual assistant. As soon as I convince myself of that, both Bixby and I can get a good night’s sleep.

Want more helpful relationship tips that go beyond getting along with electronics? Check out the Little Book of Big Jerks.

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May I Brag about My Brother?

sibling rivalry turned pride

My brother won an award, and I feel like bragging about it. This is a big deal.

The award is a big deal, sure. It consists of recognition for teamwork – and a designated parking space – at the hospital where he works.

But the biggest deal about the deal is that I’m genuinely happy for my brother – and not jealous at all.

Anyone who grew up in a house peppered with sibling rivalry, heady competition, and racing to see who could do what first might know how absolutely glorious it feels to actually be happy – instead of jealous – when a sibling does something cool.

Sibling Rivalry

I’m not sure when our sibling rivalry began, but I’m guessing it was the day my younger brother was born. I don’t recall being pushed aside for my new baby brother, but I do recall thinking I was the queen of the world. That meant anything that had the potential to take attention away from me could be cause for alarm, whether the potential was actually realized or not.

While you might expect rivalry from a batch of sisters like the Kardashians, where they’re all competing for fame, fortune, and the biggest butt, it’s not something you would necessarily expect from me and my brother.

That’s because we:

  • Are four years apart
  • Have totally different interests, dreams, goals, styles. He kayaks. I paddle board. He paints saints. I paint skeletons, dogs and spiders.
  • Are pretty much on opposite sides of the personality scale (aside from our matching sarcasm and wit)
  • Are fans of different football teams
  • Took totally different paths in life, with totally different results. He went to college and medial school immediately after high school and eventually became a surgeon. I hopped on a Greyhound bus bound for New York City and eventually realized my dream of making a living through writing, art and creation.

Despite our massive differences, I still felt the need to compete. I wanted to be the first to call Mom on her birthday, send Dad a Father’s Day card, book my plane ticket for a family visit, or get dibs on the last corner piece of deep-dish Buddy’s pizza.

Competition seemed to always be part of our relationship, at least in my head. This competition sometimes reared up mightily enough for me to turn into underlying envy. I’d look at everything my brother had, which included many things I didn’t, and want to use some of that sarcasm on him.

When I heard about this latest award, however, my heart didn’t harden with jealousy. It opened with love.

What the Heck Happened?

I can pinpoint several factors that are likely to have contributed to this glorious change of heart. They include:

  • Keeping a daily gratitude list for the past year, which makes me grateful for what I have instead of what I think I lack
  • Realizing there is enough God, love, money, fun, and everything else in the world to go around for everyone to enjoy, reassuring me that I won’t get less if someone else gets more
  • Being part of a supportive community that actually cheers for people to succeed rather than secretly hoping they’ll fail
  • Stopping the dang comparisons. Someone will always be smarter, younger, richer or have fewer dental fillings – but only I can be me.

No doubt I’ll be keeping up the above practices. The daily gratitude list comes with illustrations, has spawned several art projects, and consistently obliterates negativity. The realization that there’s enough of everything for everyone helps me revel in abundance.

Supportive communities that actually cheer you on are like getting a big hug every time you’re in their presence. And stopping the comparisons helps ensure we’ll enjoy the unique person we were born to be.

Not only that, but I can merrily brag about my brother and his award, instead of groveling and wondering why I didn’t win one. I can be happy for who he is, what he does, and that he’s my award-winning brother. But that still doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up dibs on the last corner piece of Buddy’s pizza.

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There’s still hope for a Tucson truck driver’s ‘widow’

truck

Never mind the thought of your beau rambling in a big rig through a tornado zone or the fear that truck-stop hookers, known as “lot lizards, ” will be swarming around him like maggots. The worst part about being a truck driver’s so-called widow is having Willie Nelson constantly run through your head.

“On the road again ….”

This trucker gig is a new thing for my beau since his old career hit a roadblock. Like funeral directors and garbage collectors, truckers will always be in demand. Stats show the demand for commercial truckers is up 20 percent, with more than 230,000 trucking jobs listed in the first three months of 2013 alone.

People want stuff fresh. They want stuff now. And they want stuff that has to be hauled from Oklahoma City to Jersey City or Salt Lake City to Kalamazoo.

Continue reading There’s still hope for a Tucson truck driver’s ‘widow’

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Tucsonan discovers how a severed arm can haunt you (even when it’s not your arm)

freaky cat 2Being young, drunk and stupid can come with lifelong consequences. And those consequences can come even if you weren’t drunk. Just ask a Tucson guy we’ll call Sam.

Twenty-something Sam was an upstanding person: a former soldier, an intelligent and compassionate chap who was aiming for grand things.

“I wanted to be a lawyer to help people, ” he writes in an email. Sam instead found himself on the other side of the law as a defendant in a crime that got plenty of press due to its grisly nature.

The crime involved a severed arm.

Continue reading Tucsonan discovers how a severed arm can haunt you (even when it’s not your arm)

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