Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dog Day Afternoons

For the first time in my life I truly felt like a father this week.

As you know, Gail is gone for at least a couple weeks to San Francisco, so I am alone with Peyton.

Although my office is 60 miles from home (thank God for our Diesel Jetta....), Gail only works 1 mile from home. So even though Peyton spends the day in "his room" (please don't let him know the truth that it is a kennel/crate) Gail comes home for lunch and lets him out.

Well, with me 60 miles from home during the day, Gail's absence would require The Boy to spend 11 hours in "his room." So when Gail flew out Tuesday afternoon, I found a Doggy Day Care in Grand Haven (about half way between our house and my office). On Wednesday morning, Peyton wondered what was up when I didn't beg him to go to his room so I could go off to spend time busting my hump for The Man. Instead, I put his leash on like he was going for a walk.

After all of the associated Leash Dancing was done, Peyton settled down and got in the car. We drove to Grand Haven and I took him into Paw Pro (the doggie day care experts). As I got ready to say Good Bye, the dad thing kicked in. I bent down and rubbed his ears and kissed him on his forehead. I told him to have fun. I told him I would see later that tonight. I reminded him that we were one winning lottery ticket away from spending all our Summer days swimming in Lake Michigan. Then, they led him off for a day of romping, playing, chasing, chewing, etc.

As he strolled down the hallway, he didn't look back. That's when I felt like a dad. I knew he was too excited to be thinking of me, and I knew I was going to have a worse day than him.

The Odyssey

Yesterday I faced my greatest challenge as a woodworker.

I wasn't even in my shop when I realized I was in this spot of bother. I was at my desk at work.

It was the space bar that got me.

As my right thumb hit the space bar the electrical grid of my body communicated that something was rotten in the state of Thumbsville. Yep....little splinter in my big right thumb.

I don't think I visited the shop yesterday morning so somehow a sliver of cherry had spent the night with me, living just under the surface of my thumb.

Normally, Gail is my splinter removal girl. However, less than 24 hours before this she had flown to San Francisco to visit her baby sister. It is interesting, because in our 12 years together this is the first time we have been apart for any reason other than my business travel. In other words, although we’ve spent weeks apart with my travels to Viet Nam, China, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and all over the States….July of 2008 will mark the first time I’ve spent a night alone in my own house. Of course I have Peyton.

So, staring at the splinter yesterday, and realizing Gail is gone, I considered options. Gail's middle sister is a nurse with keen eyesight, but she was leaving for San Francisco that very day to join up with her two sisters. Calling her was not an option.

I thought of calling on one of my friends in the office. Except I've been married so long I think I forgot how to "hook up" with a new woman....even for splinter removal. Am I supposed to take in the results of my most recent blood test. Even then, how does the conversation begin? "Excuse me , Gladys, I know you successfully raised children, so I know you've done this before...would you mind going after some wood I have here for you????" (Wow...that would have landed me in HR... PDQ.)

So I decided I was own my own. Naturally, the situation followed the Right Hand Rule. I remember learning about this in Calculus. It means if you are right handed, you will always have to do one handed tasks with the left hand, and vice versa. My tool of choice was a thumbtack/pushpin. As I took that pushpin between my left thumb and forefinger I thought of an interesting paradox:

I'd give my left arm to be ambidextrous....

Like General Eisenhower who signaled the go ahead for Operation Overlord, fully realizing that this necessary step would still require the death and destruction of many Allied forces, I plunged the pushpin into my own Omaha right thumb. I dug, I pried, I levered, I cried. The tears served as little magnifying glasses that easily improved my vision ten fold.

At times I pushed it deeper. At one point the delivery turned breech. Still, through the agonizing pain, I continued the pushpin torture. Suddenly, like a prairie dog in the desert or a Whack-a-Mole at Chuck E Cheese....a tiny portion of the splinter popped up. Because I am a committed nail biter, I didn't have the option of pulling it out with finger nails. My choice was to scrape and pray.

I scraped the pushpin against the side of the splinter fully expecting to see it shear off like a whisker in the graphics from a Gillette commercial. Yet, to my great joy, it did indeed pull the splinter fully out of my body.

I looked at that splinter laying on my desk in its own little biohazard containment area. And I was left wondering, "How do single guys deal with splinters?" Then the flood of memories came into my head of the woodworking adventures Gail has shared with me. They all came back...the wound scrubbing...the bandaging...the drives to the Emergency Room... scrubbing the shop floor with bleach...Gail has been an integral part of my woodworking.

So until she returns I am left with the dilemma...

Time in the shop is the perfect way to pass the time while I am alone. Yet being alone subjects my tender body to injuries that may require the assistance of trained professionals.

Finally, the solution came to me.

The Life Alert system (I've fallen and I can't get up) is on its way and will arrive tomorrow. Soon I will be able to maintain my shop independence and can stave off the attempts of those who believe I should move my work to a Group Shop.

Thank you, Life Alert.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Grand Facade So Soon Will Burn....

Given the heat and sunshine in West Michigan, I just haven’t been in my woodshop. Instead, I have been out in the car switching from Barry to Van Halen at each stoplight (see previous post).

Well today I listened to Right Now by Van Halen and realized that in contrast to the Video of that song, the radio version just has very long instrumentals because there is not text to read to occupy your mind.

So as a service to the Van Halen listeners I compiled a “Right Now” list below. Print it out, keep it in your car, and then read it during the instrumentals whenever Right Now comes on the radio.

One warning…some of these might seem a little dark, so if you are squeamish, please turn away…..

Right Now….

Someone is playing with matches

Someone just tripped carrying a tray of Drinks

Someone unexpectedly got sick in a public place

Someone said “I Love You” for the first time

Someone is standing over the body of his first victim

Right Now….

Someone started filling the engine back up with oil, not realizing they forgot to replace the drain plug

Someone just picked their loved one out of a crowd of strangers at the airport

Someone said “Goodbye” and meant it

Someone pulled out without looking both ways

Someone is admiring their Grandma’s new tattoo

Right Now….

Someone realized too late the car was moving way too fast

Someone just moved on to the Harder Stuff

Someone achieved total clarity, if only for a moment

Someone is waiting for the phone to ring

Someone stepped off of their porch for the last time.

Right Now….

Even in the midst of the pain someone thought, “Wow, it’s weird how you see the explosion before you hear it….”

Someone generated the courage to publicly admit their favorite band of all time is CROWDED HOUSE

Someone is discovering Boo Radley for the first time

Someone just realized his fly has been down for hours

Someone just lost their grip

Right Now….

Someone just shared their wife’s deepest secret with a stranger

Someone just took a joke way too far

Someone just cheated his own children while playing Chutes and Ladders

Someone was just told the cancer is advancing more aggressively than they previously thought

Someone convinced another person to do the dirty work for them.

Right Now….

Someone is driving on Snow Tires in the middle of Summer

Someone doesn’t know they are being messed with

Someone just lost their Security Deposit

Someone realized there was no movement on the ultrasound

Someone inadvertently mixed gasoline and diesel

Right Now….

Someone achieved the Dream of their Lifetime

Someone lost all hope

Someone just quit his day job

Someone just spoke at his best friend’s wake

Someone felt the tingle of true love

Right Now….someone just decided this shit was “Blog Worthy.”

(and yes...I do realize the title comes from Peter Gabriel...not Van Halen)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Signing in the Shower

I know, I know, I know….it’s been a week.

Were you worried? Any chance you thought I had been sucked into a machine and was still spinning around the cyclone just waiting to drop down into the dust bin?

Well, it’s nothing that dramatic. Instead, I have just been distracted by things in life other than the blog. I’m sorry. I know you deserve better.

Today on the way to work I started fixating on all of the pressures and distractions that we face in life, and the next thing you know in an effort to find clarity I was scribbling out my random, deep thoughts as I drove along.

This morning I bypassed the 40mpg economy of the Jetta in favor of the top down sun-basking glory of the Benz, and I think that (the near heat stroke from the sun) is what led to the eclectic mix of today’s thoughts .

Without further babbling, here are today’s little nuggets....or as the late, great Mr. Carlin would's Brain Droppings:

Recently I put Baby in a Corner, and it was actually about as anti-climactic as the time I messed with Texas.

My old girlfriend Carly still confuses me….even now, years after we broke up. I understand she was mad about the breakup, and she wrote the song about my being vain. However, given her follow-up song about me was NOBODY DOES IT BETTER, don’t I kind of have a right to be vain? Come on, Carly. It’s time to move on.

Speaking of songs, I was talking to Neil Diamond last week, and he told me that in the original version of Cracklin’ Rosie….the line went, “Cracklin’ Rosie make me a sandwich….”

Which do you think chess playing woodworkers struggle more with…..end grain or end game?

Do Deaf people sign in the shower?

That was it. Notice there were far fewer thoughts today. It’s because the commute is so much faster in the Mercedes than in the VW….

For the record, there was no Night Ranger during this morning’s drive to throw my world into a Tizzy. Rather, the drive was somewhat calm and relaxing, with the exception of one radio visit from Rammstein that made me move the shifter lever from sixth to fourth and plant the right foot hard.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


My wife and I have 4 cars, but one of them is my baby. However, like any baby…it requires a lot attention. It's my Mercedes SLK 320 (with AMG Sport Package).

I don't want to discuss performance; otherwise I will get carried away talking about mine being the fastest time of the day at our MBCA (Mercedes Benz Club of America) Autocross event three weeks ago. (Note the trophy plaque in the photo below....braggin in your own pathetic.)

Instead, I want to finally clear the air about how much work it is to operate the radio while driving with the top down. I live just off of US31. US31 is a 55 mph 4 lane highway, but it has crossroads and stoplights. That means that each time I stop at a light, invariably someone pulls up next to me, causing me to scramble to change the radio to something far more hip than what I was really listening to.

While passing long lines of cars at very high speeds, I can be belting out "Looks Like We Made It" right along with Barry Manilow. However, at the next light I have to quickly punch up a station that is playing something more along the lines of Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher." 5 seconds after the light turns green, with the car back up to 60 mph, I can jump back to Barry for a strong finish to our duet.

This morning, though, something different happened when I switched to Sirius Radio's Classic Rewind while stopped at a red light. I hit the radio preset and found Night Ranger. Immediately an entirely different set of obsessive compulsive activities started. Sister Christian is a trigger song for me. Like the folks who would act out The Rocky Horror Picture Show down in front of the screen on Friday nights back in college…I do a one man production of Boogie Nights every time I hear Night Ranger's Sister Christian. Here is how today's show went.

I immediately went to the glove box, grabbed the firecrackers, started lighting them off, and tossing them in the air.

Next I grabbed my long-hair wig and bathrobe from under the seat and started doing air keyboard, transitioning into air drums, followed by full-blown windmill air guitar each time the song would crescendo toward "MOOOOTTTTTTOOOOORRRRRRIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I suppose that I should mention that even though my one man show starts with the Sister Christian scene, once the song is over I actually turn the radio off and play out the full film from there. (We've established it's obsessive compulsive behavior, folks…I cannot control it.)

Normally, it goes pretty well, but today was different. Because just as I got ready to roll the credits, having given myself a pep talk in the mirror as I vainly tried to convince myself that I am still a star…I looked up to find my only audience member was an Ottawa County Sheriff.

If anyone in West Michigan knows a good bail bondsman, please have him give me a call. I am currently in the Fillmore Detention Facility under the name of D. Diggler.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saving Voicemail

Everybody does it at some time or another….the eternal voicemail.

You know the ones I mean. The attaboy from the Vice President, Your mom telling you that your dad’s surgery went ok, the one where your wife’s excited giddiness comes through the phone like she's screaming in a bullhorn as she tells you that she successfully negotiated Indianapolis traffic to arrive at the Mass Avenue Knit shop. (It was a solo field trip for her while I was in Joinery 2 at Marc Adams School of Woodworking back in 2007). FYI…I don’t think Gail even knew that I have kept that one.

My oldest saved voicemail is actually woodworking related. It’s from Bill W. at Penn State Industries, and it is from December of 2006. Now I would have to believe that Bill would never in his wildest dreams believe that some guy in Michigan still has his voicemail from Tuesday, December 19th 2006 saved on his cell phone, but I do. I probably haven’t listened to the whole message more than once or twice. However, every three weeks I get queried to erase it, and I spend about 2 seconds listening to Bill tell me that “they are upgrading me to a better dust can” before I hit the 9 button that saves that message for another 3 weeks.

I was redoing the dust collection in my shop over the Christmas holiday in 2006, and the fine folks at Penn State scrambled to get my cyclone system out to me in time for me to install it during my time away from the office.

It was nice that they upgraded me to a “better can” in order to keep my plan on schedule, but the reason I save that message is because installing that new cyclone was the last thing I worked on with my dog, Simon. Somewhere in the confused, cobweb filled part of the brain there is this belief that as long as that message stays on my phone, Simon and I are still together working on that cyclone.

I never would have imagined while stepping over Simon that day as I ran 6 inch pipe along the basement ceiling that his healthy 6 years of life were near an end. I suppose I was naïve. Simon died 4 weeks after Bill W. left that message.

I’m not quite as naïve as I was back then. That message is my ongoing reminder that life happens.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


My wife has me looking at Spinning Wheels.

So help me God, every time I think about it I get stuck humming Blood, Sweat, and Tears for hours.

Anyway, I am sure I have explained that Gail is a prolific knitter. She is quite likely a better knitter than I am woodworker. There is no doubt her completion of projects blows me away. I complete about 0.33 projects per year, and Gail busts out about 2 finished goods PER WEEK. The woman is a machine. Now she wants to start spinning her own yarn. I believe this is analogous to the fact that I use rough sawn stock. Once she starts wanting to raise sheep or alpacas, I’ll have to counter by buying a forest and a sawmill.

I may end up building her a spinning wheel, if only so I can weasel in and take partial credit for all future work she does. Then, at dinner parties I can say things like, this is an Irish Fisherman’s sweater my wife spent 60 hours knitting for me, but hey….back in 2008 I made the spinning wheel that she used during the 10 hours of spinning that was necessary to make the yarn that was needed for the 60 hours of knitting.

While in Dublin last month we visited a knit shop (Cleo) where I saw a different way to collaborate. I first whipped out the camera to get some shots of the clothing racks they used. I thought they were cool.

Then, I saw something on some of the sweaters that struck a woodworking note….6000 year old buttons carved from Bog Oak. (click the photo to read the tag)

So if Gail and I collaborate on some of these sweaters, how might my bragging go… "Well, Gail has about 40 hours in the sweater, but each button takes me approximately 6000 years and 20 minutes. However, you know me…you can’t rush quality."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Relaxing with Mimes

My wife and I subject each other to a lot of second hand noise.

As Gail sits in the living room knitting, she deals with the background noise drifting up from my basement woodshop. She also has to deal with my scream of testosterone-induced rage as I don one of my Old Man sweaters, stand at the front door shaking me fist, and yell at the neighborhood kids to “STAY OFF MY YARD!!!” Probably once or twice a year she has to tolerate the sickening sound of the bitchslaps I put on the migratory mime troupe that comes through on their way up to Mackinac Island. (I call this event Silent Scream.)

The second hand noise I tolerate isn’t quite as offensive. Let’s face it…Gail’s knitting isn’t very loud. However, each morning as I sit with my laptop in the dining room desperately trying to feed all of my Webkinz before I start my day, I am forced to listen to the cable news show Gail religiously watches. It’s not just the perky talking heads that I have to hear…it’s the commercials from hell, too.

I first heard this commercial yesterday, and my brain semi-consciously registered a What the $@#%????? However, this morning the replaying of this commercial solidly lodged in the conscious part of my brain and chiseled out a ledge where it has painted a sign that calls it out as one of the nuttiest things I have ever heard seriously marketed.

(Pleases note the “…” in the title below creates a pregnant pause of almost a second and a half from the voiceover actor as he narrates the television commercial).

The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the World...Ever!

Honestly, it’s a real title. You can get it here.

Wow, there are a lot of unsubstantiated statements in that title. Well, it’s my belief they are unsubstantiated. Perhaps there are competitions among albums to see which is most relaxing.

They get really bubbly waitress types, pump them full of ephedrine and caffeine, then strap them into La-Z-Boy’s and force them to listen to music through headphones. Whichever album creates the largest total reduction in heart rate, respiration, and certain non-essential brain waves is considered to be the Most Relaxing Album. Obviously, competition among Classical albums is more intense than in the EuroTechno or ThrashMetal categories. In fact, the Classical competition is the main event; those ringside seats command Super Bowl ticket prices from scalpers.

I still have questions. Does one competition really determine the winner for the ENTIRE world as indicated by this album’s title? What if there is an unheralded classical album making the rounds in a village outside New Delhi that is putting people to sleep left and right?

Finally, I am skeptical of the use of the word “Ever.” Does the word “ever” in this title mean “from the beginning of man up to this point in time” or does it imply all future time as well? Even if it is possible to gather all of the music that has come before and rank it for relaxation value, it is not possible to know something won’t come along next Thursday that will make narcoleptics of all of us.

You know what…I just realized I am probably not the right guy to be complaining about sweeping generalizations like ones used in the title of this album. After all, am I not the guy that Chris Schwarz links to with the subtitle, Is Jeff Skiver the funniest woodworker ever? Yes. Yes, he is.”

I suppose I should just be happy Chris chose to accentuate my sense of humor as opposed to my ability to put the smack down on non-verbal artists.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dude, Where's My Pie Safe????

As the darkness envelopes you, there seems to be a communal scream of "NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!."

There's nothing like a power failure in the working world setting of a Cubicleville office complex to immediately clue one into which employees are diligent about backing up, and which of us are just too busy to be distracted by prudent acts like that.

This morning I was listening to one of my good friends describe the horror of losing a document that had about 3 hours of time invested in it….

Wait. I know it shocks some of you that I have friends, but I do.
Really. They're not the kind of friends who will lend me money or help me move, but I do have friends.

Anyway, my buddy's tale of lost document woe started me wondering…..
(cue the wavy edges on the perimeter of the screen.)

What if other areas of our life were impacted by power failures?

More specifically, what if our woodworking fell victim to gremlins in the grid the way our computer work sometimes does? It would lead to guild meetings and Woodcraft Coffee Pot discussions that sound more like share time at 12 step meetings…

So anyway, Tom, I spent 6 hours last Saturday morning dovetailing that new blanket chest for my Aunt Tillie when I'll be dipped if the power didn't go out. The lights were only out for about 2 minutes, but so help me Fred, when they came back on…every single dovetail I had cut that morning was gone.

There could be much more painful stories.

You know that storm that rolled through last Thursday? I lost an entire Hoosier Pie Safe. I don't know if it was how I had saved my work or what, but I didn't just lose the rails and stiles I was working on at the moment the power went out…I lost the whole project. I've been Googling like crazy trying to find out if anybody knows of a way to recover it, but it ain't looking good. It's upsetting because I not only lost all of my hours of work, I lost the lumber, the hardware, the punched tin panels. I lost everything. And to think…woodworking is supposed to be fun?!?!?!?

However, something tells me that the Festool Snobs would gloat about some kind of built in back-up protection they have, similar to the way all of you folks in the Apple/Macintosh crowd are right now wondering what the hell I am even talking about.