Some books aren’t very good on Kindle

The way I work is that I go some place and I’m there until the job is done. It could be a week, it could be two months.

It used to be that when I’d travel, books would be the heaviest thing I’d carry.  Mostly because there aren’t a lot of English book stores where  I go.

So when ebook readers became a thing, I got one. It was great, I could stick 100 books into something that weighed next to nothing. Right now, I’ve got the Kindle just below the Paperwhite. And to be honest, I still love the Kindle. I’ve got dozens of books, and sure, I’ve to charge my book and occasionally it crashes, but it is better than the alternative.

The only problem they can’t seem to get to work is technical books.

I bought Headfirst Java which is a good book, but most of the code snippets and exercises are something other than text. So they are lighter than rest of the text and  I can’t figure out how to make them darker or change the font size.  So I’ve got a good chunk of the book(and the teaching contained within) that is unreadable.

I’m not sure if this is an e-ink limitation or a Kindle limitation or the book was just converted poorly.

Either way…. grrrr.

Whelp, Back in Angola

Weee!I tried to avoid it, but after over four months at home, the Angolan government finished my work visa and I was told to get to to Luanda as soon as I could. Last year, I got stuck here for two months because of visa problems, so getting stuck at home for four seemed to be a fair trade. It did make me miss a job Holland that I wanted to do, but it was good to be home for a change and we had somethings going on that made it even better to be at home.

I got here on Easter weekend, so as you can imagine all the super urgent stuff I need to do can’t be done because there is nobody around. This almost included my pass to get into the compound we work at.

Sadly, that guy showed up for work.

The boss here is saying he may send me offshore on a different job to babysit a noob they have to make sure he knows what he is doing. The job promises to be simple, and now- that I have a work visa, I have a feeling I’ll get called often to help.

The Angolan government intentionally makes it hard to bring in expats in the hopes that companies hire nationals. Which isn’t a bad thing. but they make it too hard. It is difficult to get experienced people in to train and supervise until a national is ready to step up.



Last year, I was here three weeks and my laptop started having problems. The keyboard stopped working, which makes it a little hard to do my job. A few days ago, my screen started going red and now it looks like this:


I'd like to point out I was smart enough to take a photo and not a screenshot.
I’d like to point out I was smart enough to take a photo and not a screenshot.



So either the screen is broken or my laptop has joined the communist party.

While I’m here, I’m pretended to learn Java again.  I’ve got a few ideas for programs that I’d like to do and it seems like something I can make progress on in my downtime. I just sometimes feel like my head is full of sand and get discouraged. I figure by this time next year, I’ll either be a billionaire app developer or still pretending to learn programming.

God, this feels like it is all over the map.

Marquetry iPhone Case

I’ve been wanting to build something, but my shop has been in disarray due to work, weather, sharing it with an incontinent dog and a complete kitchen remodel that went on much longer than was expected.

A tool I could use was my scrollsaw, which doesn’t take much room. I don’t use my scrollsaw much because a good 90% of the projects don’t appeal to me. Something that does appeal is the art of marquetry done with a scroll saw.

Recently, Matt made a veneered phone case, and I decided that Margo needed a fancy case, and I could try out marquetry.

So I turned this:

Into this:

And learned a lot along the way.

The first issue was getting a case. I sorted that out and got a cheap one. I didn’t realize it was a two part deal, which created some design challenges. It fits super tight, so that is good and will make for a sturdy base, I just would have preferred A piece.

The next was a design. The wife likes dogwoods, so I decided dogwood flowers on the back would be the best choice. Now, I have all the artistic ability a lobotomized possum, so drawing the flowers is out of the question. I found a picture on the internet and isolated the flower part. From there… tracing paper.

First I created an outline of what the phone case looked like. Another recurring problem was trying to wrap my head around what side was the show face and which one was the glue side. With this design, have the camera hole in the middle of the flower would have been a disaster.

I made layers of the tracing paper. The very bottom layer was the flower picture, the next up was the phone outline, and one top of that was the version of the flower I traced.

Here is the flower traced and I’m trying to work out the Most Unexceptional grain direction for light flow. Another thing I’ve worked out is that a key for appearance is the flow of light and wood grain.

And moved the flower down one to trace it again. I also rotated and worked the picture to make it not look like I just traced the same flower twice.

And the final step was to copy the tracing paper at an ultra dark setting to give me a template.

Now, to deal with the tooling issue. I ordered some Flying Dutchman Puzzler blades, a veneer supplies starter kit, and several packs of veneer from Highland Woodworking.

I went to Michael’s and got a piece of white cardboard. Part of that was used to cover the gaping maw of my scrollsaw with a zero clearance table.

I wanted the back to be walnut burl, so I needed to soften it a little. I used the bottle of Super Soft that came with the veneer supply kit. I sprayed the veneer to get it wet and clamped it between some paper towels and let it sit a few hours to dry.


I think it made a neat pattern on the paper towel. Probably because I did something wrong.

Next, I took all the bits of veneer and made a little sandwich with two bits of the poster board and a lot of blue tape.


I purposefully made the sandwich larger than was needed, so I drove some small nails through the outer bits to hold the whole packet of veneer together. So when I gang cut it, everything will line up within the kerf.

I didn’t take any pictures of the cutting process, but I did make an extra copy of the template and as I cut so I could lay the pieces out. This worked great until the wind blew through an open door and scattered all the bits to the wind and broke the back.
IMG_20140312_123023  Just laying there, prior to finishing.

Next, I wanted to some sand shading of the leaves to give the piece some depth. With sand shading, you take some sand, get it hot and dip the pieces of veneer in to get them a little darker. I got some sand, a pan from Goodwill and ended up using the stove to heat the sand. The problem with my method is that the pieces are small and the sand is hot. I need to work out a better way to hold the veneer as a run it through the sand. Because of this, I managed to not get the shading I wanted. Still, I think it came out spiffy.

After that, I put the pieces back together and glued them to another piece of Walnut to work as a backer. Another mistake I made was cutting the backer and the face piece separate, when I should have glued them together and trimmed both at the same time.

I’m not sure where the gaps came from, I think it was part of them getting blown about and I didn’t get them back in the spots they are supposed to be. I need to work out a better numbering and storage system. The bits are all small, so I think I’ll get a plastic tackle box that has a lot of compartments. I decided that using more Walnut as a backer(and a little dark wood paste) would fill the gaps and conceal the problem.
IMG_20140312_145837  The completed piece, glued to the backer piece of veneer.

IMG_20140312_184529  IMG_20140313_104144

Attaching it to the phone case, was fairly easy. I just got some slow setting super glue and stuck it on. Later, I realized I should have done most of the finishing work before I stuck it on there. After that, I took an X-acto and cut out the camera hole. And managed to damage the piece a little. So I glued bits of veneer back to work as patches.

Camera hole cut and some patches applied.

I cut the bottom bit off and glued it separately. I put a piece of cardboard between the clamp and the veneer to protect it.

IMG_20140313_154418  IMG_20140313_104158

Now, came one of the biggest mistakes I made. Veneering the sides of the case. It was a combination of technique and probably material. I use the softener to get the material really floppy and some clothes pins to clip it to the case and get it bent into shape. The material was really fragile and I’m not sure it added anything to the case. The sides kept breaking and ended up becoming a hodgepodge of veneer bits and wood filler.


After that came the process of finishing it. I used a soldering iron to create stamens. After that, I used polyurethane to give it shine and protection. It kept getting bubbles in it. Which turns out to be a thing that poly does. I would sand it a little and add a thin layer, let it dry and do it again. I eventually started using poly thinned out with boiled linseed oil. That sort of worked.

IMG_20140314_082137  IMG_20140314_150243

IMG_20140314_164956  IMG_20140314_184407


I finally gave it to Margo, and she is happy with it. I’m just going to say the defects are proof it was made by the hardworking artisans of Decatur Georgia.


I have a few ideas for doing another one. My phone just has a plain black case, so it needs something super awesome.

So, I’m back in Equatorial Guinea

And I managed to see fire number 4 at a Halliburton facility this year.

I’m not sure why the sharp increase in fires, but all of them have been electrical.

This one was a much to small cable used to wire up the building. It melted and started arcing. Fortunately, they stopped it before it became a huge issue.

But attempted repairs by putting the same undersize gauge wire back. Did you know this country has the lowest average IQ?

Vacations are never long enough

As I was leaving Malabo on the 5th, the boss comes up and says “One of the guys that was supposed to come had a medical issue. I need you back on the 15th.” So, My trip to St George Island had a cloud hanging over it.

And to top it off, my American Express had been turned off. So I spent too much time on my vacation sorting that and my flights out.

St George was fun. We split the house(oh god… I first typed staffhouse.) among friends and they brought their kids. We saw dolphins(At one point they were less than 20 feet from the shore), crabs played board games and the people in the house next to us spent their day catching sharks. The only real downer was we took a day to go to Shell Island, a 10 minute boat ride from Panama City. The horseflies were intense. I think we spent less than two hours there. Some people spent less.

Apart from that… the weather was lovely and the water was calm.

Dealing with customs

We have equipment stuck in customs. Which is common. We are always moving equipment in and out of countries. Sometimes… things go haywire.

We had equipment come in a few weeks ago, but the guy that signs the customs forms was on vacation for a week, so the guy that fills out the forms didn’t fill them out.

Signer guy comes off of vacation, but Filler Guy goes on vacation for a week.

Filler guy comes off of vacation, Signer guy quits. Now there is no Signer guy and our stuff is still stuck in customs until they get a new Signer.

On the plus side, my coat rack is a bowling pin.

So, I got that going for me. And I leave here tomorrow. After that is a week on the beach.

I’m in Equatorial Guinea

It has been a long time since I’ve been here. The area has developed like crazy. What was jungle a few years ago is well developed commercial areas and housing. So good for them.

But there are some issues. There is still malaria here, and it is bad malaria. The one that eats your brain. So we put mosquito nets on every bed:

Mosquito Net

The problem is there was a mix-up somewhere down the line and we’ve order 4,000 of them to cover the 40-ish beds in the staffhouse. There are boxes of them in the warehouse.

Another issue I had was the cleaning lady at the staffhouse wouldn’t clean my room, Room 16. I’d have to leave my laundry outside the door to get them to do it. I after a week I found out it was because they didn’t have the key. So I started giving them the key in the morning. Which meany around 6 when we were stopping, I had to track down the cleaning lady because she forgot to return it, left it in the door, left it on a table, or somewhere else.

After another week, I found out that the problem was the “6″ had fallen off so they reached the entirely reasonable conclusion that the rooms went 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 1, 17, 18, 19.

So I took some white correction flu and fixed the problem:

And I haven’t had a problem since.

I try to make things with wood.

I really want to woodwork. I just never do and it seems I mostly end up collecting tools and have a rather poor set of skills that I don’t feel ever increase. I’m hoping by writing this down, it will encourage me to actually do something about this.

Partly, is my own doing. The other is due to work. Take this year. It is now June and I’ve spent 5 of the last 6 months in Africa. Several thousand miles from my shop. There was a “Get Woodworking” week pushed by the woodworking community. I missed it because I was trapped in the third circle of hell known as Angolan Immigration. When I do get home, I really just want to sit on the couch or catch up on the life I’ve missed when I’m gone. I’m pretty depressed about the fact that I’ve spent more time with certain coworkers than I have with my family. I’m actually writing this in notepad to get my thoughts down because I’m stuck in the Atlantic, off the cost of Congo with no internet, no TV and no phone. I downloaded a bunch of episodes of Woodtalk Online and that is my entertainment.

It doesn’t help that my shop is a mess. Again, my own doing. Most of my shop furniture is either hastily bashed out bits to address a specific need at the time(I swear I’m going to finish those drawers soon) or cheap plastic shelving units I’ve gotten from Target. Most of the time it just depresses me when I enter it. It looks horrible and is usually in a condition that at work I would yell at somebody about.

Not surprisingly, I tend to find excuses for myself to not spend time in the shop. But I’ve decided I’m just going to get at it. When I get home, I’m just going to get in the shop and start making sawdust. I’ve got a few projects that have really suffered from procrastination.

This year I’m going to:

-Build a coffee table I don’t loathe.
-Finish the garden swing.
-Build a workbench.
-Build out the shop better.
-fix the walls of the shop.

I’m working out of a garage. Thankfully, I don’t have to share with a car, but I get embarrassed because we also use it as the main entry for the house. So all my friends walk through the superfund site I try to call a shop. I want to make it nice enough to be proud when people walk through. And the garage is really a converted carport, so there are quite a few things that need to be done to turn it into a workspace. It had lattice work in between brick columns. I put up plywood on one of them, the other I replaced. I need to build out both of them and either paint the wood or put bricks up. I hate to lose the space, but I’m not sure if I want to sheet rock the walls. the other is I want a wooden floor, but I’m not sure about the price I’m going to pay for that.

I don’t really have a workbench. I’ve got a little toolbox thing with a piece of MDF on it. But that isn’t really good for anything other than as a flat space to put things when I’m too lazy to put it where it goes. I don’t quite have the space so I think right now, I’ll build a Moxon style vise and clamp it to the table saw. That should give me enough weight to do some basic hand work until I get to the point where I can get a proper workbench.

The garden swing I started to build, but got sent out. So it set out mostly painted since October. Part of the problem has been I really wasn’t too sure about how to build the frame. I did build a garden arbor, I’m just not sure I trust that design to holding a swing. I did find a *bracket at Home Depot* that I think will work. The other problem was that at some point, it got blown off of the sawhorses I was using and the arms got broken off. They were held on with screws, but I think I’m going to convert that to a mortise and tenon set up.

The coffee table I was trying to go for a mid-century modern design, but I’m not happy with how it is coming out. It doesn’t help that my attempt to turn the legs and mount them to the table has created a really rickety table. Oh well. At least I get to set fire to my mistakes. I’ve got a better idea I want to do, the design is radically different, but I think it is more along the lines of what I can do.

There are still a few tools I “need”, but I’m not going to get them until I get my shop together. I want to replace the irons on the No 7 plane to a thicker, newer iron. I want to replace my modern Stanley number 5 with one that isn’t garbage. I want to get a bandsaw, but that can wait. I might look at getting a handsaw for any resawing I need to do for the time being. I’m thinking I want to build a *toolchest* and fill it with a loadout similar to what the Schwarz recommends and use them to increase my handtool skills. I don’t want to switch to all handtools, I feel that power tools have replaced the tasks that were done by worms. But I do want to get less useless at using handtools.

I’m in Congo again

This is the second time in as many months.

It really isn’t too bad. Normal West African former French colony stuff. We usually stay in staff houses, but I’ve been put in a hotel in town. Don’t let the 2 and half star rating fool you. It is easily a 1 and half star hotel. It is across he street for a supermarket and there are a few decent restaurants nearby. The biggest complaint I have is the internet is set up so you buy a card that is good for one hour. When that hour is up, you need a new card. Unless the clerk has decided to go take a nap somewhere or get drunk, at which point you are off the internet.

The work is what has seemingly become the standard. I don’t have what I need, what I do have is machined wrong and I need to somehow turn what has been set up to fail into a successful job.

I’ve been told this rig we are going to has no TV, Internet or Telephones. I’ve got maybe four days or work spread out over the course of a three week well test. So, super.

I was chased by an octopus

Today, we got to to meet the Vice-President of the Eastern Hemisphere division. Sadly, it was like when I got to meet a Vice-president when we were in Mozambique. It was just so he could call us a bunch of idiots and tell us to stop screwing everything up.

So, at dinner time we decided it would be a good time for some beer. African bars can be a little different. Like, just somebody on the corner with an ice chest. Which, usually there is a lady on the corner but the staff house with her ice chest. So we left the staff house… but no beer lady. I spot a sign for the national beer, Cuca and say “Let’s try that way”

We get there, but there is no obvious sign of a bar. The guy I’m with speaks a little bit of Spanish, which is close enough to Portuguese. He asks a local where is the Cuca and we are directed down this really sketchy looking alley that I have to go down sideways. We get to a restaurant looking place, but can’t figure out how to get in.

Another local shows up and signs that we need to go around back.

We get to the back and there really isn’t anything there. Until another local decides we need help and shows us the way. Which is good because I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have found this place. It was literally a hole in the wall.

The music inside was cranked to 11. I have no idea how they managed to hear anything. It was beyond the range of the speakers, so it was nothing but distorted noise.

Our guide didn’t speak English be we managed to get it across that we wanted as many cans of cuca as we could be with what little money we had. So, we got 10 cans and two looseys for our guide. We also gave him a beer as a way to say thanks.

As we made our way out and back to the staff house, we developed a following. People asking us for Cuca since we had a bindle sack full of them. One guy actually had an octopus and started chasing us with it, trying to trade Octopus for beer.

There are a million blogs on the internet. This is one of them.