Friday, January 30, 2015

The Great Raid

When I heard about Unbroken, the movie coming out, I had to first read the book to prepare myself. The book had been in my pile of 'to read' books so had been on my radar for some time but I after hearing about the much hyped and much deserved hyped movie, I put it to the top of my list and then went and saw the movie to boot. The movie was great but not nearly as good as the book but I suspect all you already knew that.

Reading that book reminded me that I knew very little about the Pacific Theater part of World War II. I was especially interested after my last trip to the Philippines and visiting Corregidor Island to learn about World War II in and around the Philippines. I searched online, found a half dozen books and read up on the subject. I learned the lot and have a punch list of other places I would like to see firsthand the next time I return.

Having read numerous books on the subject which necessitates many horrible prison camp stories of American's being tortured during their years in captivity, only strengthens my political views and distances me from the majority of the Republican party when it comes to defining what constitutes torture. If we use the excuse that we are saving lives to get information, we are showing other nations that it is acceptable to do these things on our soldiers. It is not acceptable in my opinion.

But what I really wanted to write about in this post is about what is known as The Great Raid. When General MacArthur returned as promised to the Philippines to rid the island of Japanese occupation, he was worried about the fate of the thousands of U.S. and Filipino prisoners in various prison camps. The Japanese fearing the United States return, had issued kill orders to the prison camps that specified that all captives were to be killed if the prison camp was in danger of being liberated by the U.S. In at least one case in Palawan, prisoners were herded into a trench covered in wood, doused with gas and set on fire. Escapees were shot and clubbed to death. Of 150 prisoners, only 11 survived to tell the tale.

Fearing this possibility with other prison camps, the U.S. set in motion a daring plan to have 100 Rangers and Filipino guerrillas sneak in 30 miles behind enemy lines and free the prisoners at Cabanatuan prison camp before they too were executed. The raid was a success and 513 prisoners were freed, many having to be carried, many so malnourished that a ranger would carry two of them upon his back. They were carried and carted behind carabau drawn wagons the 30 miles back to the front lines all the while Japanese troops and tanks tried to intercept them... unsuccessfully.

Back behind the relative safety of the front lines, the prisoners started telling stories of their years in captivity and the world began learning for the first time of the infamous Bataan Death March. This raid took place 70 years ago today and these stories should be remembered. The Japanese are still looked down upon by many in the Philippines for the deeds of their ancestors. Seventy years has not been enough to shape the memory into something less than pain and anger. Will it be 70 years before we are forgiven for waterboarding and making nude pyramids with our prisoners?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Worst Movie Ever

We have subscribed to Netflix for quite a number of years. Back when we signed up, we got one DVD mailed to us at a time which meant we got to see around 4 or 5 movies a month. We pretty much stopped going to movie theaters at that point because we enjoyed watching the movies in the comfort of our own home without all the distractions of a movie theater. These days, we also get Netflix streaming which allows us to watch some movies on demand and television shows that I knew were good but were on cable channels that I don't subscribe too. I really enjoy our Netflix service.

At first, it was easy to fill up our DVD list of movies waiting to be mailed to our home one at a time because there were so many we hadn't seen in theaters. Eventually we got through them and I had to come up with other ways to fill up the list. We watched quite a few movies that were classics that I had seen that my foreign born wife hadn't seen for a time. Eventually that grew old and so I moved on to finding Academy Award winners or nominated movies and watching them. Just watching the movies that have won prestigious awards keeps our list full for a significant portion of the year. The rest we fill in from the movie previews at the beginning of a movie.

Although I can order the movies we receive into any order I desire, I pretty much let them come in as I added them to our list. Last night we opened up our mailer and popped in the DVD to find out we were watching the movie The Bacherlorette. We watched it and I must say it was probably the worst movie I have ever seen. I'm not sure what the plot was really supposed to be about, I found little humor in it, found quite a bit of moral disgust, and couldn't really tell you what it was about. My wife and I even tried to put it in context of how we would pitch the movie to a producer to get it made and were at a loss of what to say.

Which brings me to the point of how in tarnation did it get on our list. I have no idea. I thought perhaps it got nominated for some obscure award like best costume or best makeup but couldn't find any nominations for it. I don't think we saw a trailer for it and found it worthwhile to put it on our list because I don't think I could string together five funny seconds of the entire film much less a minute's worth. My best guess is that I was typing in the name of a movie we wanted to watch in the search bar online and then accidentally clicked on the wrong movie. I hope that was it and I hope I don't mess up that badly again. So now I am off to review my list and make sure I didn't do it another time or see signs that someone has hijacked my Netflix account so that they can watch movies that they would be too embarrassed to watch with their own account!

Monday, January 26, 2015


It's funny how things work but every time we have bought a house, it hasn't truly felt like our house until we cover all the walls and trim with a fresh coat of paint. Until then, it just feels like someone else's house that we have taken over. With our previous house, we painted all the walls in the main living areas off white and then used colors in the bedrooms to suit whomever slept there. It worked well and was easy to maintain because I only had a few cans of paint. But my wife always looked at the pictures of houses in magazines that had assortments of colors and wished we could do the same.

When we bought our current house, I gave my wife complete control over the color palette and we started in painting. At first we really loved the colors in the main living areas but after awhile, we began to change our minds. We simply had too many colors (four) and it just began to wear on us. It was harder to maintain because with four similar colors, I had to remember which color went where whenever I had to do some touch up work. Because we also started doing accent walls of a different color, it nearly tripled the number of paint cans I had sitting down in the basement. Trying to paint walls, I stretched paint to make a gallon work instead of having most of a second gallon setting around which meant that I didn't have any touchup paint for some walls. Finally, even though we chose fairly conservative neutral based colors, they still felt dark to us especially during winter.

So with a coupon in our hands, we stopped in at the local paint store last week and loaded up on one color of paint for all the living areas again. It is much lighter than our previous wall colors and reflects light much better so it makes the house feel brighter and warmer in the winter time. I dreaded all the work of repainting things but now that I'm a couple days into it, I don't anymore. I think I dreaded it because the first time, I spent hours of time patching holes from the previous owners and sanding down hundreds of paint drips from their paint jobs. This time around, I have little to no patch work to do because things on the wall are going back on the wall for the most part and since I do a much better job painting, I don't have any paint drips to sand down first. The hardest part of it all is keeping the two year old distracted so she doesn't get into the paint for a half hour or so until it dries enough not to transfer all over her. We have had no disasters thus far. It is a challenge now that there is furniture everywhere but I try to do just a wall or two a day which gives me time to slide everything out enough for me to paint, let it dry and get it all slid back in place by evening when my wife gets home.

Friday, January 23, 2015


My daughter is starting to get to that age where she is interested in playing more complex games than Chutes and Ladders or Old Maid and such. So we have been dragging out some of my collection of games and learning them, including Cribbage. I use to play cribbage all the time with my mom when I was home sick or on a cold winter day with no school. After I moved out of the house, I never found anyone to play cribbage so it slipped to the wayside. A decade ago when my mom was doing a stint in the hospital and it was my turn to keep her company, I stopped and bought a cribbage board at a store on the way. It was a cheap pine board with painted on tracks and plastic pegs that broke if you breathed on them wrong. I still have that board including the toothpicks we use to replace the broken plastic pegs.

After teaching my daughter how to play cribbage, it came to mind that I really need a new cribbage board. Since I am pretty handy around wood, I thought I would try making my own in a similar style seen above. Not to go easy on myself, I decided that I would try inlaying a contrasting wood for the pegging lanes and began to research various methods to do that. I found methods for free handing, scroll saw, router and a few other ways. Free handing seemed like it is better suited for small inlays. The router works well for larger and smaller inlays but requires a special bit, making a template and it doesn't do well with inside corners. The scroll saw method seemed like it would work the best for this particular application so I set to work.

The scroll saw method comprises of stacking contrasting woods on top of each other and then gluing on a pattern to cut around. I used scraps of kamagong and mahogany that I had laying around from other projects. You can see my first attempt below before I started cutting. I tilt the table to around 3 degrees so that when I cut around the line, the top piece will sit down in the recess from the slightly smaller piece and sit slightly proud so that you can sand it flat. What I failed to note is that it is important that you cut counter clockwise if my table is tilted down to the right. Attempt one ended in failure. Attempt two was successful but I wasn't pleased with the result. The long straight parts of my patterns just weren't straight and looked like a drunk woodworker had cut them out.

I'm embarrassed to show a picture of it below. It looks like a middle school shop project but in the interest of being informational, I have included it. I think if I were going to do this method again, I would go with the router but since I have never done inlay with any method, it would be something new for me again. Because I didn't want to burn through all my kamagong wood which long time readers will remember I brought back with me from the Philippines in my luggage, I decided to use some highly figured wood instead and skip the inlay process this time. Instead I am going to just build the box similar to what was up above and call it good. If I have some extra time at the end, I might at least practice some inlay using the router method and perhaps adorn the bottom side of the cribbage box, just in case it still doesn't go well. More on all that later. Right now, I am in the process of building the box.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

January Doldrums

This is the part of the year I enjoy most though the cold detracts from it a bit. I spent the spring, summer and fall working on one big project after another. In fact, the siding project went right into winter and is still being worked upon. The siding is up but none of the caulking is done and must wait for a few warmer days and there are a handful of odds and ends to tidy things back up. It always seems as if the period of days between Thanksgiving and the New Year is always full of obligations, family, school and church. Granted I enjoy attending those obligations but it wears on me after awhile. So when those are over and only a minor blip called Valentines Day between here and spring, I'm excited to relax a bit.

Typically this time of year, I like to do a few oddball hobby type stuff in the garage but I have to work around the weather which hasn't been too cooperative lately. Materials, tools and even my body just don't function well when it is well below freezing for long periods of time. I pulled out a project I started years ago, possibly over a decade and have been storing it in a paper bag ever since. It is making a working wooden toy front loader. I like working with wood and I like a challenge and this seemed to fit the bill back then and still does. So I've been working on making the rest of the uncompleted parts for it.

My oldest daughter is getting old enough now to understand the game of cribbage, a game that I enjoy playing. I drug out the cribbage board I had bought years ago when my mom was spending some time in the hospital and it was my day to keep her company. It is a cheap pine board with painted on tracks and plastic pegs. As I was teaching my daughter the game, I got to thinking that I could build a better cribbage board and if I did it right, it might become a family heirloom that can get passed around for a few generations. I also thought it might be a good opportunity to try doing some wood inlay, something I have never done but think it looks so beautiful when completed. So I found a hole template and am starting that project.

Both the toy loader and cribbage board however, need some thin stock material. I can rip some boards down close but eventually I need to run them through my planer. It is so heavy to manhandle around, I like to get it set up and do all that I need at once before putting it back away to save my back. So I got it manhandles up onto my table saw which serves as the base for doing my planing, powered it up and got to work. However, the in-feed rollers weren't pulling my material end and it was getting to the point where I was having to force it through with most of my strength. Not only is it not safe this way, but the results it leaves behind on the surface is undesirable. After shining a flashlight on the rollers I could see they were working so I was stumped at what was happening. I Googled up my planer model along with the words 'won't feed' and the very first website I clicked on gave me the answer. When it is cold, the rubber feed wheels become hard and can't grip the wood to pull it in. I set up a space heater for four hours blowing air on the rollers and then I was able to finish planing my boards so I can proceed again on both those projects.

When it comes to building things out of wood, I have an incredible backlog of things that I would like to build someday. Everything from furniture to boats to a details of a house. Yesterday I added a new project to that list. While over at the piano teachers house with my oldest, the teacher showed me one of his Christmas presents. It was a violin kit that had all the necessary parts but needed assembly, lots of assembly. He had to cut, shape, mold, adhere and finish all the pieces to eventually get a working violin. Having never heard of such a thing, I asked him if they also produced kits for acoustical guitars and he pulled out a magazine full of them. So now one of these days, I'm going to have to build my own guitar. I did some research online and they actually seem to be quite straight forward to build for someone with a reasonable amount of woodworking skills. Perhaps next January. I still have to balance out my hobbies with plenty of fireplace time and catching up on my stack of books.