My Summer Project – Firewood

I don’t even have a fireplace or wood stove.  What I do have is a yard full of sliced up giant oak trees:

rounds2 rounds1 rounds3

All I have to use to split all of that oak, is a 4.5 pound splitting maul, a six pound sledge hammer, and a pair of steel wedges.  I’m finding that the wedges are most effective when used as a pair, working along the same crack, alternating blows on each wedge.  It keeps the wedges from wanting to jump out of the expanding crack, and usually drives them right through.

Even the big blocks are easier to split when I can first split them in half.  However, there are still some that will not yield to my wedges or maul.  I call them the “untouchables”, and am collecting a pile of those blocks, which will be freebies on Craig’s list to whomever has a hydraulic splitter and wants them.

But, here’s what I’ve done so far, by hand:


That longest row is 0.73 of a cord, the second row is 0.4 of a cord.  Each new row will be a little smaller, as that is the shape of the piece of ground where I am making the stacks.

Now, after that cures for a year, I could easily sell the lot by the cord.  But, I think that may miss out on a work opportunity for the boys.  I foresee an arrangement with a local market to keep a rack of bundled oak firewood stocked.  I’ll need to make some sort of a display, and figure out how to weigh the bundles, and of course, get a strapping tool to make the bundles.

But, the boys can run it.  I’ll set them up with an email address so the store owner can order a refill when the stock runs low.  The boys can weigh the sticks to be bundled, and help me to restock the display at the store.  There are lots of lessons to be learned in that exercise, I think.

Anyway, I’m doing it for the exercise and strength training.  That’s right, my back is reminding me I’m not forty years old any more.  But, it hurts less each day.

We’ve moved!

No pictures just yet, and this is only the announcement, not the long story.  But, we are moving from Belgium to Eugene, Oregon.  If you know us, you have our email address, and probably have some details.  More to follow…

Liam’s New Shoes

Liam reads

As you can see, Liam can read, and this is his first paperback.


Liam' shoes

We got him some new pants, but they needed a belt, which I re-sized this evening.  And, here he is, with his new pants, and his nice new boots.  Real boots.  He really likes them.

Liam's Shoes


Liam's Boots

I really like them.  I never had boots that nice when I was a kid.

Rue Grande is clean

It took me a couple weeks and a box of orange trash bags that I could only find in Canada, to clean up just over a kilometer of roadside. Those bags are 140 liter bags, and I filled twenty of them. Liam helped with the last six bags.

That stretch of road was a real eyesore on my bike ride to work. I don’t think it has ever been cleaned as well as we did it.








Liam’s Birthday Today

Well, allowing for time zone differences between where he was born and here, it’s not really until tomorrow morning.

But, here are a couple shots of the very clever birthday cake K made for him, in the motif of Minecraft:

Liam's Minecraft cake

Liam’s Minecraft cake

Liam's Minecraft Birthday Cake

Liam’s Minecraft Birthday Cake


Bike Crash. Damn big bike crash.

So, on September 12th, a fine clear late summer day, I was minding my own business enjoying my ride home on my bicycle:

Sachs bike

Mid-1980s Sachs road bicycle

A nice Sachs road bike I rescued from rusting oblivion, abandoned for seven months on the bike rack where I work.  Technically, I probably stole it.  If the owner ever shows up and asks for it, he can have it back (after paying for the bits I replaced).  But, I digress.

There I was, no shit (that’s how you tell the difference between a story and a fairy tale).  Just starting my ride home down the Rue Grande, leaving SHAPE in the direction of Mons.  This is one of the short stretches of my 8.5 km ride home that is on a road.   And, it’s a nice downhill run.  Since I was on my road bike, I was riding at a good speed.  Probably approaching 60 km/h.

Near the bottom of that hill, on my right, is a small shopping center.  The two lanes in my direction are split into one through lane, and one right turn only lane.  On the uphill side, there is a left turn only lane, where cars wait for the downhill traffic to clear before crossing the downhill lane and entering the shopping center.  That’s the idea, anyway.  Here’s a diagram of my crash, drawn from my perspective of riding downhill:

crash diagram

Diagram of my bicycle crash

Here’s what happened:  At time T1, the three involved vehicles were in positions A1, B1, and C1.  Vehicle B, an Opel station wagon, saw car A clear the intersection.  He saw no more traffic coming downhill, and began his left turn into the driveway of the shopping center.

Except I was still coming downhill, and damned fast.  The driver of car B didn’t look for any other traffic except car traffic.  Realizing there was no way I was going to avoid this impact, my best course of action was to get on the brakes as hard as I could and bleed off as much speed as possible before I hit.  Force is a product of mass and velocity squared.  So, half the speed is a quarter of the force of impact.

At T2 the three vehicles are in their postions A2, B2, and C2.  This is when I hit car B at roughly 30 km/h.  That’s a wild guess, I just know it was less than my full downhill speed, because I was able to get some braking before impact.

At time T3, I was in position C3.  That bubble over my head in the diagram is a dialog bubble.  You can imagine what I said and fill it in yourself.  I remember no details of the actual impact, it was too fast.  I heard a really loud bang as my head hit the road.  I think my head hit first, then my right shoulder.

Anyway, I was ambulatory, sat up and looked around, then got the hell off of the road.  I sure didn’t need some car driving over me to boot.  There was a surprising number of people who saw this happen, and were there to help me.  One was an off duty pompier (fireman for the provincial people who don’t speak French), and he insisted on calling an ambulance.

So, away I went to the emergency room of Ambroise Pare hospital.  Where, after a bunch of radiographs, I found I had a broken clavicle and three broken ribs.  Which would explain the pain.  After a couple hours of lying on a table staring at the ceiling, the doctor finally got back to me and put a figure of eight sling around my shoulders.  I couldn’t reach him or I’d of punched him.  That hurt like hell.

The next Monday, I saw the orthopedist, who gave me a sling to hold my arm down.  It helps with the pain in my shoulder, but does nothing for the broken ribs.  Sleeping isn’t so good, there’s no comfortable position.

The following day, we went back to one of the stores in that shopping center to pick up my bike.  It still rolled.  The only visible damage was the rear wheel was knocked out of true by about six millimeters and the spring for the clapper on my bell was gone.  Wierd.  I’d have expected the front wheel to be mangled, but it was undamaged.  Regardless, I dropped it off at my local bike shop to have all the spokes replaced and true that rear wheel up if possible.  When I rescued that bike, all the spokes were quite rusted.  I sanded the rust off and painted them white, as you see in the above picture.  It looks nice, but it’s not durable.

Yesterday, I had a closer look at the helmet I was wearing, a 2000 model from Giro, the Terramoto.  You may remember last year, I got car-doored near my house.  I didn’t have a helmet on that day, and my head did hit the street, but not hard.  Nevertheless, I re-evaluated my continued exposure to risk since I commute daily, and decided a helmet at all times was appropriate.

On first glance, the damage to my Terramoto helmet seemed superficial.  The scuff pattern on the shell is barely visible:

helmet shell

The shell of my crashed Giro Terramoto helmet

That section of the helmet is the front right quarter.  You can see the vertical scuff marks and the cracked section of the shell on the bottom edge of that vent.  Doesn’t look so bad. But something made that loud bang when my head hit something.

Further inspection on the inside of the helmet reveals a crack and displacement completely through the helmet:

Cracked helmet

Giro Terramoto helmet after a crash, cracked through.

Clearly, I hit something with my head, and damned forcefully.  Have you ever tried to break one of these helmets?  That foam is pretty tough stuff.

Next, I removed the helmet shell to have a look underneath it:

deformed helmet

Giro Terramoto helmet, deformed in a crash.

That’s some pretty significant deformation, over a large area.  The foam of these helmets is quite stiff.  To put dents of that depth over that large of an area of impact took some considerable force.

I doubt I’d have survived that impact without that helmet on my head.  I’ll repeat that thought.  I’d be dead now without it.

Don’t be an ass.  Don’t be a dumbass.  No justification exists to not wear a helmet on a bicycle.

The crash I experienced is a common type of crash.  It is also common with motorcycles, and I knew this.  I saw where this car was positioned, and I saw what could have happened before it happened.  I had good momentum, and just wanted to get home to supper.  I pushed a bad position.  Even though I had priority, and made no mistakes, I’m still the one with broken bones.  I was wearing a bright yellow jacket, I was in the correct lane position.

The thing to do would have been to bleed off some speed until I was either clear of the danger or could stop if I needed to.  It would’ve cost me 15 seconds in time of my ride.  My judgment a year ago to always wear a helmet was sound.  My judgment of this little traffic situation, not so much.

Learn from this.  Save you, it can.


I never ride it any more.


I bought this motorcycle, my 2001 BMW R-1200C in August 2001.  I’ve been riding my bicycles to work now for about a year and a half, and I am simply not driving this motorcycle any longer.  I’ve probably had it out five times in the last year.

It’s been the motorcycle I’ve liked the most, of all that I’ve had.  I wish I had a barn in which I could store all the machines I’ve ever owned.  But, the reality is, that it costs to keep a machine road worthy.  Routine maintenance.  Road tax.  Insurance.   Just to have it in the way in my garage.

Not only that, this machine was designed and built to be driven.

So, I think it’s time to sell it.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

What can go wrong with a motorcycle after 11 years?  It’s always little stuff.  The bezel of the rear tail light housing cracked.  A common failing in this model.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

The turn signal lenses usually do not survive a removal to change a bulb.  The pillar into which the retaining screw engages cracks off from the inside.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

right front turn signal

The chrome plating on the headers is not invincible.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

left side header

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

right side header

If this sells, I will miss it.  Just like I miss all the other motorcycles I’ve had in the past.  C’est la vie.