Monday, June 30, 2008

Royale with Cheese...

I was talking to a close friend today about differentiating twins.
I mentioned that my nephews Harrison and Jackson are the most identical pair of human beings I have ever encountered. The only discernible difference is that Harrison has an Alec Baldwin-esque voice that sounds like he smokes 4 packs of Lucky Strikes per day (that is excessive for a 5 year old).

I just cannot imagine my two nephews being apart. For example, once when Gail and I were babysitting the twins and their 3 siblings, all 5 kids went down to the basement to watch a movie… slumber party style. I went down there and found 4 sleeping bags. When I asked why there were only 4 sleeping bags, the middle child (Maddy) looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “The twins sleep together.”

Harrison and Jackson recently got a room to themselves, and they got bunk beds. When they gave her a tour of their room, Gail asked them who slept on the top bunk. The reply was, “Nobody…we both sleep on the bottom.” When I think of the twins, I just can’t conceive of having one without the other.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered the story of a different pair of twins who were separated at birth. This story is one of the things I learned when Gail and I travelled to Dublin recently. It’s a lamentable and cruel tale of two twin brothers separated at birth. One was taken to America, and the other was hustled off to Ireland. However, the DNA connection of these two was so strong that even though each never knew of the other, the very chemistry of their makeup carried them down educational roads and career paths that were remarkably similar.

It wasn’t until I happened to go shopping one day in Dublin that I discovered the story of TK and TJ….The MAXX Brothers.

“You know what the funniest thing about Europe is…it’s the little differences.” Vincent Vega, American Philosopher (deceased)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oh....I Forgot to Mention...

My niece Hannah turned 12 today.

Because there were pre-teen girly sleepover things happening at her house, Gail and I invited her 10 year old brother, Isaac, to spend the night with us last night.

Isaac and I played Wii. I am not a video game person, but as soon as I tried Wii bowling last year, I knew I had to have one. Isaac doesn't even have a Wii, but as an American 10 year old he has logged about 3000 more Wii hours than me, a full fledged Wii owner.

However, I had never attempted Wii golf until last night with Isaac. The stupid thing is that as Isaac was "teaching" me to play Wii golf, I was having to go first. So, on the first hole AFTER I managed to drive the ball about 30 yards right of the fairway, Isaac told me I should watch out for that 25mph wind blowing left to right. Then, he aimed way to the left and drove the ball about 300 yards landing right in the middle of the fairway. (Thanks for the tip, Isaac.)

Then, AFTER I used an iron to hit the ball so far over the green that it went out of bounds, Isaac pointed out the swing power meter, and he hit his iron with about a half swing and dropped the ball onto the green inches from the hole. It seems that my nephew is the King of Post-Failure Instruction.

Perhaps in a few years he will get the woodworking bug, and I can get some paybacks:

1) Oh, yeah....I forgot to tell you about dry-fitting the parts prior to glue up.

2) Wow, Isaac. You're quite the bleeder. I guess I should have told you about pushsticks....

3) Dude, you should have heard the Banshee scream you let out when that glove got caught in the jointer. Sorry for not warning you not to wear gloves, Little Buddy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Must Have Them ALL!!!!!!!

A few weeks ago we talked about Ken Wisner planes. Then about a week after that blog entry a very special Wisner showed up on Ebay. It was special (in my opinion) because it had WISNER cast into the side of it in the area where I have always seen Ken Wisner’s name hand scribed. Naturally, I had to have it. It would perfectly complement the one I own with the autograph.

As I followed the end of the auction on Ebay, I was pretty sure I was going to win it. It was going for about $85 and I knew that I had my AuctionSniper price set for at least 50% more than that. As the closing seconds ticked away, I waited to see my name and bid magically appear. Then, with 5 seconds to go nothing happened. AuctionSniper blew my bid. I watched as someone else won my plane (with the cast in name) for about $90. I was not crestfallen; I was PISSED. I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars through AuctionSniper going back to at least 2001, and it had never failed me before.

I emailed, called, did that whole “Automotive Engineer SENSE-OF-URGENCY Crap” and tracked down what went wrong. I put a permanent corrective action place, and I should have no more AuctionSniper trouble as long as I live. However, it is little consolation since I had missed the only Ken Wisner plane I had ever seen with the name cast in.

Then it happened.

In our universe where celebrities die in threes…apparently Name-Cast Wisners appear in pairs on Ebay. Less than a month after the AuctionSniper fiasco a second one appeared out of nowhere. The bad news is that it was due to end while we were in Ireland. I would have no choice but to trust AuctionSniper to bring it home for me. I placed my bid on AuctionSniper and left the country. I actually forgot about the plane…(the wood cutting plane….I thought a lot about jet planes while out over the ocean.) Then one day in Ireland while checking my email I found I had completed my Wisner collection by winning the auction. My successful AuctionSniper bid easily covered the second highest guy and I brought it into the fold for $107.50.

The plane actually made it to my house before I did. We were still in Ireland when my mother-in-law collected the package off of our porch. So along with the suitcases, the new Wisner got unpacked when I arrived home. Take a look at it.

It actually has grime on it.

I held him up to the light and tried to imagine his life over the last 30 years. I wondered what kind of work he had done to accumulate this kind of gritty patina. As I pondered his existence the little plane opened his mouth and yelled at me in a voice surprising like Mr. T’s, “I’m blue collar, Fool!!!! I ain’t no Bridge City sittin’ on a collector’s shelf. I’ve had to pay the cost to be the boss!!!!! Now give me somethin’ to cut on, Boy!!!!!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I already had a Wisner #95. I could not find the cojones to let him know I had only purchased him to complete my Wisner collection. I don’t think he could handle it. There’s a lot of working class anger pent up in this grimy little guy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Used to Be Irish Catholic...Now I'm an American

"I used to be Irish Catholic, Now I'm an American..." those were the words that changed my life.

I was 14 years old, and my brother had just put the new (to us) cassette into the stereo of his car. The years before this moment had seen my sense of humor shaped almost solely by network TV and Bill Cosby albums. However, George Carlin's Class Clown was my graduation from the School of Cosby to the Working World of Carlin.

The weird thing is that George Carlin and I appeared so different on the outside. I have always been the the squeakly clean, crew cut honor student who never even considered a single experiment with drugs or alcohol. Also, my politics seemed nearly 180 degrees off of George's. However, George taught me timing, delivery, and he most importantly taught me that in my world it doesn't matter what a person looks like, thinks like, or acts like if he can make me laugh.

George and I did have some similarities though. We were peeved by some of the same pets. In one of his books he mentions how much he hates the fact that 99.9% of the world mispronounces forte. His response to the argument that the dictionary lists "for-tay" as an accepted secondary pronunciation is to say that the reason it is secondary is because it is not the PRIMARY (correct) pronunciation of "FORT."

I used the above example of forte in describing to my wife that 99.9% of the world doesn't understand damping of vibrations. To reduce or damp a vibration one would install a damper. If one desired to make something wet, he could reach for a spray bottle to serve as a dampener and could dampen the offending dry item. It bugs me that the repeated misuse of a word actually leads to its becoming an accepted usage. I recently saw in an Engineering dictionary that with regard to noise and vibration, dampen has now become an accepted substitute for damp. To paraphrase my late comedic mentor, the reason dampen is an accepted substitute is because it is not the primary (correct) word.

I may have always appeared to be the poster child for the nerdy, hard right, but when I would open my mouth and unleash a volume of sarcastic wit in the style I learned from George, it made me the life of the party. Thanks to George Carlin my circle of friends includes stoners, cripples, religious nuts, MILFS, doctors, immigrants, gays, convicted felons, soccer moms, truck drivers, professional athletes, former Captains of Industry and the legally blind. I love a variety of ladder climbers, under-achievers, and the comfortably uninformed and unconcerned.

I am a man of the people, and I owe a big part of that to a former radical, dope-smoking hippy who was willing to rip on anybody if he thought it would get a laugh.

The world is a sadder place today now that George Carlin is gone.

However, George will always be with me because he provided me with alternatives to consider when I reached the formative years of my adolescence.

George made me a classroom hero by providing me with the mantra I gleaned from his Class Clown album, "Well, I'm Bored...why not deprive someone else of their education."

It's good to know with people reading my blog at their places of employment depriving their bosses of the time they should be working, I continue to be the same apparently squeaky-clean smart ass 14 year old kid George Carlin turned me into.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kellogg's Rice Krispies for Ireland: Snap, Crackle, and Bang

When the writing gig started, I couldn’t be sure I was a published magazine feature writer until I saw the magazine on the shelf at Barnes and Noble’s. Sure I had gotten (and cashed) a check weeks before. They even sent me a few copies of the magazine a couple of weeks before it hit the newsstand. However, I could not be 100% sure those advanced copies weren’t Photoshop’ed fakes until I saw the identical thing on the retail shelf.

When that finally happened, it took everything in me to not grab the magazine, flip it open to my article, and run through the store while screaming incoherent rants to the long line of foster parents, parole officers, and counselors who told me I would never amount to anything. (Mom and Pop, I know you never gave into the urge to walk away from your parental responsibility. The previous sentence is a complete fabrication that many authors (and ALL political speech writers) call “jazzing it up” in order to make a boring story a little more interesting.)

While in Ireland, Gail and I visited every bookstore we saw. (We do the same thing during our daily lives here in the States). I would immediately head to the Magazine Rack to see if I could do an international version of the Bookstore Ranting Jog. Unfortunately, most of the bookstores did not sell any woodworking periodicals. Also, the selection of woodworking literature I found in the bookstores followed a line closer to DIY Home Restoration than building fine furniture.

Then, one day in the City Centre of Galway I happened upon a large bookstore that had a significant selection of magazines. As I approached the woodworking magazines it seemed a certainty that I was going to be able to forever say that in June of 2008, I travelled to Ireland and found pictures (and an eloquent 4 page description) of my building a Windsor Tall Stool back in my homeland.

Here is what I saw….


I understand Fine Woodworking being a logical choice for export to the Emerald Island. It has International Appeal. But how can American Woodworker be required reading in Ireland with Popular Woodworking nowhere to be found? There was no PopWood anywhere in Ireland. The other tragic absence I noticed was Pop Tarts. There were no Pop Tarts in any of the groceries we visited during two weeks in Ireland.

So even though I thought about yelling at Chris Schwarz, Megan Fitzpatrick, and the entire F+W Publications team about the lack of penetration into the Irish Market, I have decided to let it go. I eventually realized that if the Multi-billion Dollar Cereal Giant from Battle Creek, Michigan cannot get shelf space for Pop Tarts, how can Popular Woodworking chisel out a niche. Clearly, all of Ireland is opposed to anything whose name starts with “Pop.”

Given the Anti-"Pop" Irish bias, my advice is for Mr. Schwarz to concentrate on Woodworking Magazine being the opening salvo of F+W’s invasion of Ireland. Meanwhile, I am currently working with Kellogg's on my plan to get PopTarts into Ireland. I have no doubt they will eventually replace either the mushrooms, the beans, or the black and white pudding in the traditional Irish breakfast.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I am the Lizard King...Wait...Different Doors

Dublin is famous for its painted doors. The legend is that a husband returning home late from the pub entered the wrong house, got into bed with the wrong woman, and was shot and killed when her husband arrived at his correct (although crowded) bedroom. Therefore to add another visual clue to drunken Irish men that they had found the correct house, women would paint their doors a distinctive color that was different than their neighbor's.

The Dublin Doors were great. This massive nine foot tall door at the Bunratty Castle provided a lot of interesting woodworking-related thoughts as I pondered its construction.

Then, there were the doors in our condo. The condo in County Clare that we rented for a week was truly beautiful, but it has the ugliest doors on the planet. I say this as a woodworker. My travel mates didn't seem to be as bothered by the doors as I was. However, these doors were intentionally made using raw materials that to me were unworthy of being used in a bonfire...let alone a show-off piece in someone's home. Perhaps this is an Irish cultural difference that I just don't get. However, I think this is just an example of cheap construction being marketed as a feature.
I freely admit that I don't like Knotty Pine. I also don't like Knotty Cedar even though there are very few clear Select and Better Western Red Cedar Boards used in the ceiling of my sauna.

In my projects I meticulously plan out my lumber to match grain and create visual harmony. So the thought of intentionally including knots strikes me as weird. There have been times where I kept in a knot to add some texture and variety, but even then it was done with great effort...(I used wood flour and epoxy to fill in the voids and stabilize the structure of the knot).

That kind of planning did not go into the construction of these doors. Here is what the doors looked like.

The panels were glued up from boards no wider than an inch and a half. The knots themselves were cut in half and then glued against clear sections of adjoining boards only an inch and a half wide.

Prior to becoming a woodworker, I would have never noticed these doors. Now I have just enough knowledge to recognize a door that should have been installed in Dublin where it could have gotten a bright Sears Weatherbeater covering.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Angels Among Us....

We are home from Ireland. In the 16 years since I graduated from Rose-Hulman (my glorious Alma Mater), this is the first time I have ever had two weeks off of work (other than Christmas shutdowns or the dreaded company downsize). It was almost like having a sabbatical.

Although at least 100 people a day hit this blog, I have to assume my mother is the only one who actually reads it. So, Mom, I know how tough it has been for you to not have new material to stare at. Therefore, I think to make up for the lack of blogging over the last two or three weeks, I am going to do a bunch of short little posts over the next few days. They will be much shorter than normal, but there will be more of them. So, in some ways for at least a week or two I am going to finally make this blog what a blog should be....short and interesting. We will start that plan off tonight.

Ready.... Let's do it:

I am about 77% bought in to that concept of a parallel universe that is exactly like ours with the exception that George Bailey was never born causing Bedford Falls to indeed become Potterville. I saw something on my trip to Ireland that provides a data point in support of parallel lives/universes.

While in Dublin a couple of weeks ago I happened upon a 14 year old version of myself.

I have a fun little thing I like to do. When I see someone taking pictures, I like to provide delightful background scenery. I don't mean the obligatory throwing up of bunny ears behind one of the photo's main subjects. I mean adding happy little scenes that although visible are still subtly pushed off in the shadows. For example there are more than a few wedding reception photos where a keen eye will catch me performing the solo Heimlich maneuver on the back of a chair. There are family reunion photos that would APPEAR to have me punching one of my 4 year old nephews right in the kidney.

Two weeks ago as my lovely wife Gail took a picture of our friends and travel mates crossing the Ha'Penny Bridge, a young Dubliner managed to stop and jump into the photo just at the exact moment when Gail fired the shot. My best friend Matthew saw this going down and was clearly puzzled by the event, but his wife Marikay was oblivious to it. As soon as the picture was shot, the young man drifted away into the crowd, and was never seen again. Let me go on record with this...Guinness Factory, Cliffs of Moher, River Shannon...none of the subsequent photos from the trip gives me as much happiness and joy as the smart alecky kid on the Ha'Penny Bridge.

I am glad to know that as I move onto young adulthood there is a new generation of Weisenheimer out there ready to pick up the mantle and make this world a less serious place to be.

Perhaps he was a comedy angel???? Here is a new scripture for my personal Bible I am writing in my spare time, "The funniest candid moments of life are when you have entertained comedy angels unawares."

Bravo to my kindred spirit in Dublin shown in the photo below.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Jimmy the Saint and his Gate

I am alive.

When I checked email today there were 317 new messages. The most recent one was from the editing staff at Popular Woodworking. Megan was worried I had gone all literary/artsy and pulled an Ernie Hemingway 12 Gauge move or something. I am okay.

I am in Dublin. We have been in Ireland for the last few days, and we are here for another week. I haven't been on the internet since I arrived because I have finally gotten cheap. We've been at the Conrad Hotel in Dublin, and since it costs about a Lie-Nielsen #8 Jointer Plane per night (or in our case a boat load of Hilton Honors points), I refuse to pay an additional 18 Euros (per night) for internet access in my room. Honest to God, the most expensive room I have been in since a stay in Hong Kong in 2005 makes you pay an additional 18 Euros a night to check your damn email.

So tonight I finally grabbed my laptop and found a nice tavern with WiFi.

I will have Irish Woodworking stuff to babble about when we return to the States in the second half of June, but for now I will close with photos of today's Woodworking Research Project.

While in Dublin today, I investigated Coopering.

Here are some photos:

Now some probably wonder why I would take time away from vacation to spend time researching Coopering. Vacation is supposed to be a time to "get away from it all." Well, that is just my dedication to the craft of woodworking. Even during a respite from the stress of work life, I can still find a way to improve my knowledge of woodworking and its history. Basically, I decided to do something to help with my future woodworking articles and my work. It's not always about doing what I want to do. Sometimes one needs to suck it up and be academic.

If you are ever in Dublin, I encourage you to follow in my studious footsteps and do your own research of Coopering. Just look for the place shown below.

Apparently, they have an extensive history in this important area of woodworking.

I suppose some day I should find out what they put in all of those barrels. This trip was only about woodworking...