Mini chopper project

Posted by on Jun 29, 2013

Mini chopper project


I picked up a “great deal” on a mini bike off Craigslist in June.  It ran super-strong.  When I ran it in the driveway for a while, it blew the engine.  Turns out it had a massive oil leak and was bone dry. Dumb mistake – buying the bike without checking the oil and looking more closely for leaks.  Doh!

I decided to rebuild it!  🙂  Now that I have it apart, it’s apparent that a new engine is a cheaper alternative.  Blown head, cracked crank cases…the new engine is coming in the mail now.  Wish me luck!

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Fire Starting Basics – Tinder

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012

Fire Starting Basics – Tinder

As Bryan Houser (aka, The Beer Man, a Denton, TX musician who likes to be tipped with Budweiser) often says “a plane won’t fly without fuel”.  He’s right!  The music usually picks up speed, energy and lyrical grit after the Beer Man has hammered down his first few tips.  A fire won’t burn without fuel, either.  If you want a good one, you have to feed it an ample supply.

But you can’t light a big fat log with a single match.  You need smaller sticks and logs (kindling) to catch fire first, and those can’t be lit easily either.  To get it all started, you need Tinder – a substance loose enough to catch a spark and flammable  enough to light the kindling.

Finding Tinder in the Wild and in the Home

You can find smaller pieces of tinder in almost any outdoor environment.  Small leaves, the dried bark of some trees, small sticks.  Any of these could be used as an effective fire starter – as long as the tinder is dry.  Being a good Boy Scout, I stay prepared by keeping my own pre-made tinder available in my bug out bag.  Here are a few ideas for making your own tinder from items you find in nature, or that may be lying around your own home.

Mesquite Bark

When camping in west Texas, or out in the Hill Country, I’ve frequently used mesquite bark right off the tree as a fuel.  The bark of the mesquite tree is very fibrous and stringy, and it burns fairly hot.  Find a loose chunk of the bark and begin pulling it off the tree.  If you bend and twist it in in your hands, it will begin to come apart into a tangled mess of fibers.  This is great if you’re in an area with lots of mesquite, and everything is dry.  Save some for future use by packing some in a small ziplock bag.  It will be dry and ready for you any time you need it.

Homemade Petro-Cotton Balls

This is my current favorite fire starter, and what I have stowed away in my current bug out bag.  Making these small fire starters requires two items you probably already have at home:

  • Cotton balls and
  • Petroleum jelly

Follow these steps to create your own:

  1. Pull the cotton balls to spread them apart to about 3 times their normal size.
  2. Rub the cotton ball in a glob of petroleum jelly until it’s fully coated, having absorbed almost enough to saturate the cotton ball.
  3. Press these together and seal in a ziplock bag or other waterproof container.

I made a couple dozen of these for our family’s bug out bags, and decided to pack mine in a metal Altoids (the curiously strong peppermint) container.  Each container can hold about a dozen cotton balls saturated and pressed together.  Throw the container in a ziplock to make it waterproof. Spread it out and light it, and you’ll have a portable effective fire starter that burns hot and long enough to light more substantial fuel.

Pine Heartwood

If you’re blessed enough to live around a pine forest, or simply have a few full-diameter pine logs laying around, pine heart-wood can be one of the best options available anywhere for Tinder.  Heart wood is from the center of a pine log.  It contains a higher concentration of pine tar  – a flammable sap of the pine tree.

Cut small wedges our of the center core of a pine log.  They can sometimes be lit with a single match, and they burn extremely hot.  They’re very effective at starting fires, due to the high concentration of pine tar saturated into the wood.

Now all you need is a heat source to create a flame capable of lighting a few sticks.

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Catholic Trivia – Level 1

Posted by on Nov 15, 2011

Catholic Trivia – Level 1

Catholic Trivia

Welcome to our Catholic Trivia quiz, a great way to have family fun and learn the faith around the dinner table, on a road trip, or on the way to mass.
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Bring on the Rain (Song lyrics from 8/13/2011 – Waking up to our first real rain in two months)

Posted by on Aug 13, 2011

It’s been 40 days now
At least a hundred and three
It feels like a desert
In the bed of the creek
The dust fills my eyes now
My skin is in pain
I need some relief now
Bring on the rain!

Bring on the rain!
I’ll stand outside  and soak it up,
Let it heal my sunburned skin.
Bring on the rain!
I’ll let it fill my cup,
Drink it down and quench my thirst again.
I’m baked by the dryness
Tired of the heat
I’m sick of the sunshine
The ground’s burnin’ my feet.
Bring on the darkness
Clouds, surround me again
Open the heavens
Bring on the rain!

Bring on the rain!
I’ll stand outside  and soak it up,
Let it heal my sunburned skin.
Bring on the rain!
I’ll let it fill my cup,
Drink it down and quench my thirst again.
Bring the clouds
All around
Let it pour
Comin’ down
Fill up the rivers
Once again
Bring it on!
Bring on the rain!

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Naked hen in recovery.

Posted by on Jul 14, 2011

Naked hen in recovery.


Tweety, one of our 5 remaining chickens after a chance meeting with the neighbor’s dog, relaxes         under the crepe myrtle.

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Fatherhood – A High Calling

Posted by on Jul 3, 2011

The stuff below is from a short talk I gave at mass on Father’s day. While It wasn’t very polished, I think it was a great way to honor the best dad I know – mine!

Happy Father’s Day!


Fatherhood – A High Calling
So in true slacker form, I began writing my 2-3 minute fatherhood talk for Sunday morning mass on Friday night, asking myself, “what can I say about Fatherhood?” After all, I think I’ve been a pretty good dad, but far from a perfect one. One thing I’ve come to realize about fatherhood is that, once you’re in, it’s a gig you’ll have for the rest of your life. So what can I offer all of you, from only my few years of experience?

As dads, it seems like we have to wear many hats. When we think of all the things a dad is called to be, usually the basic roles of provider, protector, teacher come to mind first. In today’s world, just like in times past, it can be difficult to deliver even these basics. But as Christians, we know that’s just part of the deal. Once we get that part of the job down, it becomes clear that we’re not only responsible for keeping our kids nourished and safe and teaching our kids how to succeed in this world. The number one goal of a dad is to help his kids develop into the fullness of what God has planned for them – so that when we get to heaven, all our kids will be there too.

The highest calling I can think of for a father is to give our kids a tangible model of our heavenly Father. We’re to show our family how to imitate God as Creator, worker, protector and provider, teacher and model of perfect love. Sounds like a high calling, and it is! And all of us earthly fathers blow it from time to time. We’re not perfect yet, but then again, God’s not through with us yet! And as dads, we have a unique opportunity to show our kids the love of God, in a way they can’t see as clearly from anyone else in their lives.

Well, I do have something to offer – my experience as the son of one of the best fathers on the planet. My dad, Craig Sr., is an awesome guy and a great father. When I think about what a father should be, he comes to mind. If you ask my dad, I doubt he’d express these thoughts on what it means to be a dad using all the same words. His faith has been kind of a private matter between him and God for most of my life. He rarely attended mass with us, having grown up in a non-catholic home, but there’s nobody else on earth who has shown me more about living as someone created in God’s image than my Dad has.

Of course he has always modeled the basics well. Growing up, I saw him work hard to provide for the family. He has always said that we could do anything we set our minds to. And he modeled this. Most of his career before retirement was in the refining industry, but along the way he has done everything from retail work to teaching, to radio and TV, and started and ran his own business for several years. He is a worker and a creator, always looking for a new way to solve whatever problem might be just around the corner. It seems like there’s nothing that’s broken that he can’t fix. Although we haven’t picked up all his skills, Dad has passed on that spirit of creativity and hard work, and the optimism that he can make old things like new again to my brother, my sister and me.

My Dad has also taken his role as protector seriously as well, making sure he as prepared for everything that could reasonably threaten us. From hurricanes to walking in the woods in the dark, to wondering about things that might go bump in the night, I never remember a time when I felt insecure knowing he was there. I never had a doubt in my mind that my Dad can handle anything that came his way. And as I look at my own kids, and all the stuff in this world that might shake their sense of security, I can see now how important it is to give them a strong sense of security, to make them feel confident when they begin to see all the dangers of this world, they have a capable defender, who loves them enough to take whatever action is needed, even at personal risk to himself.

Dad has always been teaching us, sharing his knowledge about pretty much anything (and constantly learning new stuff to share). He has taught us so much through working with us on various projects and chores. I think all three of us can change the oil in our cars, organize the world in Microsoft Excel, lay tile and carpet, and hit a 2″ piece of a clay pigeon at 100 yards with a rifle. But he has taught us even more by letting us in on his thought process behind some of his big decisions.

Watching Dad work through his life as a dad taught me much more than the technical head-knowledge required to imitate the tasks themselves. It gave me insights into his soul, and what it means to be a man. I watched Dad take the calculated risks of starting his own business, and picked up a contagious optimism that by adding a little hard work to your God-given talents, you can build something rewarding and meaningful. I watched him train to obtain his concealed handgun license and become an instructor for that course. Taking that course from him, I picked up on his profound respect for the gift of life. I saw him take on making health care and financial decisions for my grandpa when he lost the ability to make these decisions for himself. I could see clearly his strong value of family, and an unquestionable, unconditional love, even when at times he knew his efforts could never be repaid, and would sometimes not be appreciated at all.

It’s Dad’s constant and self-sacrificing love for his family that provides the best model I can think of for our heavenly Father. He loves us wholeheartedly and unconditionally, and he won’t settle for those he loves loving themselves in any lesser way. When one of his family is sick, he has the bedside manner of a seasoned physician (and the humor of an awesome comedian). When one of his kids is in trouble, he’s there in a flash, whether the trouble was unexpected or self-inflicted by teenage or even young adult shenanigans.

He has always been there to offer the appropriate correction when my actions didn’t live up to who he knew me to be. All the times I really screwed up, Dad encouraged me, walking by my side through until I was able to get past the infraction, forgive myself and get back into the groove of our family life.

Like I said, being a father is a high calling – especially if you want to live up to the Model so your kids can see a real life example of their heavenly Father. It takes a lot to be a creator, worker, protector, teacher, healer, encourager, and a example of self-sacrificing, unconditional love. I still pray that one day my Dad and I might share the same faith in God within His church. Even if he never does, he has already given me the greatest example I can imagine of what it takes to pass down that faith to my kids. So this Father’s day, I honor my dad, Craig Canon, Sr., and all the men who go out of their way to walk the talk, to model what it means to be a man, to lead their families, and to give their kids an example of what we were created to be – men made in the image of God.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Music Night 6/24 – Agile Software Development and Song Craft

Posted by on Jun 25, 2010

Had a great time swapping songs with my Friend Rolando last night.  Rol’s got some strong song starters he’s working on that could turn into some pretty cool tunes.  He also provided some some great lyrical and arrangement feedback on one of the songs I’ve been working on for a while – “I Hear Voices,” that I think I’ll incorporate into the next few re-writes.  Heck, I might just get that thing recorded this year!

Other than the song-swapping fun, I got a crash course tutorial in using Pro Tools, that helped me climb the learning curve a lot more quickly than I would have on my own.  I had heard Pro Tools was awesome, but in the 30-60 minute blocks of playing with it, I’ve only scratched the surface in terms off features I really know how to use.  After working with Rolando for a couple hours, I actually have a rough cut recorded mix of “I Hear Voices.”  It’s not fit for publication yet, but it’s a great start, and was a great help in helping me figure out the basics.

What an awesome App!  Now that I’m starting to really “get it,” I think I’ll be able to make some quicker progress toward the CD project.  But the biggest thing I learned is something I already knew from my gig in the software industry: 

Perfect is the enemy of good enough!

I’m in the software business.  In my line of work, you get a lot of mileage by starting with something simple (and WAY imperfect) as a proof of concept or brainstorming tool, and build on it in whatever direction gts you closer to the goal.  That’s a pretty key concept when you’re building multimillion-dollar pieces of information architecture.  Deliver value early, even if it’s small and doesn’t satisfy everyone.  Then build in the bells and whistles around that initial core incrementally until you’re done.

Guy Kawasaki (An evangelist for Apple Computer during the early Mac days) published a book called Rules for Revolutionaries, in which he lays out a few of the keys to product development success.  Like Agile Software principles, he emphasizes time to market over perfection.  For me, the key takeaways were:

1.  Don’t worry. Be Crappy. (Waiting on something perfect shuts down the process and keeps you from doing good)

2.  Churn, baby, Churn! (Take feedback early and often and crank out new versions until you’ve taken it as far as you and your audience want.

Mea cupla!  When I’m writing songs, I rarely apply these same principles that I’m challenged to live by in the professional world.  I typically get frustrated with imperfection on the first take when it doesn’t sound like what I hear in my head, then start over with something else rather than sticking to a re-write strategy.   That’s why I still don’t have my first CD project complete today.

All of us songwriters want that huge hit, but we don’t always treat our song craft as seriously as our other professional interests.  So my key lesson learned from last night is this:  Get SOMETHING done quickly, and keep taking baby steps toward the goal until it’s accomplished.

So now I’ve climbed the learning curve far enough that I don’t have any excuses remaining.  All that’s left is to get on with the process, and iterate through it until I find something I like enough to share with the world.

Thanks, Rol, for the Pro Tools lesson, and for reminding me of what I seem to have forgotten!

Looks like I have learned a few good life lessons in the geek gigs over the years!

On with the baby steps!


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