Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bugs, Harvey, and Me

Do most people have high opinions of bunnies?

Because I am starting my workday covered in bunny fur.

It all goes back to Ireland. During my vacation in Ireland in June, I bought at least four sweaters that my wife refers to as “old man sweaters.” There is a cardigan with a full zipper that is especially Fred Rogers’ish when I don it to fight off the nip. However, last week I tossed it into the tiny trunk of the Benz and managed to bust out two zipper teeth when the trunk latch came down on it. It is off at Lucy Tailor (that can’t be her real last name) having the zipper replaced this week.

During my transition from Michigan to Indianapolis I am living with my parents while diligently looking for a new home. (Do you have any idea how tough it is to find a house that provides at least 1000 square feet of woodshop area in addition to at least 3 stalls of garage space in a neighborhood that would be willing to accept ME?????) So during this time of living with my folks, most of my clothing is still in Michigan. All of my coats and jackets are in Michigan. I just brought two old man sweaters to Indianapolis. The cardigan is at the tailor for repair, so this morning I ran back into the house and pulled on my Bunny Hair (Angora) Commando Sweater. I pulled it on over my lovely oxford dress shirt. My cufflinks dug into the sleeves as I wrestled the sweater over the upper half of my body, but eventually I got it on. I drove to work with the outside temperature digitally indicated at 31 degrees. Even with the seat heaters in the VW I am glad I had the sweater on.

I arrived at work, walked to my office, and pulled the sweater off. My lovely dress shirt is COVERED in blue fuzz. It is angelically soft blue fuzz. It is the blue fuzz of the softest bunnies on the planet, but I am covered in blue fuzz.

Something else…since I am the owner of the most famous dog in Woodworking (the yellow lab Peyton), my world contains countless sticky lint rollers. And even though my entire career has seen one of these in my desk drawer, I have not yet brought one in for my new office. So I am sitting here... FUZZY... with no tape roller available.

I have to wonder about the style factor. When judging pieces of flair, can the bunny hair be considered an accessory since its navy color accents nicely with the various blues in the pattern of my shirt? Perhaps I am at the forefront of a new look. If Bunny Fuzz become THE look of the fall season, remember you saw it here first.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote...

Well, between my new employer wanting me to actually work, and the quest to find a new house to live in, last week saw no update to the blog.

However, during my my 3 ½ hour drive from Holland, Michigan to Indianapolis this morning I managed to let my brain achieve that higher stage of consciousness that so often leads to my random deep thoughts and/or arrest for creating an unlawful disturbance.

Obviously, most of these relate to music or driving, given I scribbled them out while cruising down the highway. Let's jump right in and see what new and insightful life lessons I have for you today:

Somewhere there is a Saab driver who knows what the hell they are doing, but I still haven't met her yet.

Despite what the group America says, Oz also gave the Tin Man directions to a very good seafood restaurant.

Why don't CHEATING and CREATING rhyme? I mean look at them…they're practically twins!!!!

Did Manfred Mann have bands on other planets in our solar system?

Am I the only one who thinks Paul Young's voice is about 400 times better than Neil Young's?

Ya know, John Waite's English really isn't all that "Bad" for someone born in the UK.

Given their name, I think MODERN ENGLISH should have been a BAD ENGLISH tribute band.

Pound for pound, Karen Carpenter had the prettiest voice of all time. Which reminds me:

It is worth noting that there are just two months left to vote for the best Skiving Off one-liner of 2008. At this time the polls indicate our leader is:

"Somewhere between Karen Carpenter and Mama Cass there is a happy middle ground."

followed closely by:

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

Friday, October 17, 2008

Herefords, Holsteins, and Angus

Today was my first “Casual Friday” at my new gig. I think I erred on the side of comfort.

Looking back now I can see how silly it was to arrive wearing my version of “casual” without doing a proper reconnaissance. However, I thought I understood the concept.

There seems to be a lot of denim here; jeans are everywhere.

So, I am obviously not fitting in.

You see I wore shorts. It wasn’t that as a former velodrome sprint racer I wanted to show off my legs…. it just seemed like it would be ok.

Above the waist I am out of touch as well. Polo shirts are rampant, and I have even seen a couple of Tshirts. However, I am wearing a jacket and tie.

I don’t know how I missed the target so badly. Everyone is wearing jeans and polo shirts, and I am wearing an Official Angus Young Schoolboy Uniform.

I suppose I am like a meteor that is too big to burn up in the atmosphere. Even if it isn’t always the right impression… I ALWAYS manage to make an impact.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I didn't ask for EVAN

Lunchtime Wednesday… halfway through my first week at my new job.

I have a very lonely office. It’s the biggest office I have ever had, but it is lonely. Besides the Herman Miller chair I sit in at the moment, my office has 4 “visitor” chairs. I have not yet had a visitor. There are a lot of small holes in the wall where the previous occupant had items mounted. He either had a very extensive collection of ego photos, or perhaps he used his down time to conduct seminars on rock climbing techniques.

The facilities manager said they would patch the holes and paint the office during the night sometime next week. I was told they have to paint it eggshell color, but I am hoping to slip him ten bucks and see if they will go with a different color that will complement the black light and associated posters I am bringing in.

This place is huge. The footprint is about 12 feet by 16 feet, but the ceiling is 12 feet high. So as I sit here typing, I feel like I am alone in a racquetball court.

In addition to the black light posters, I think I am going to put up a couple of FATHEADS. I was hoping to go with a woodworking theme. However, I just got off the phone with Highland Hardware and it seems that neither the Frank Klausz nor the Roy Underhill FATHEADS are available yet. How stupid is that? We can get three different poses of Warren Sapp, but we cannot get a single woodworking celebrity in FATHEAD form.

It doesn’t really matter anyway. At the moment, I am pretty ticked off at the FATHEAD company. They completely screwed up my last order. I thought I was getting a bigger than life wall image of my favorite Desperate Housewife hottie… well apparently there is a GUY named Evan Longoria. Who the hell knew that? If you are a DevilRays fan, I can make you a good deal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

We Will Bury You....

Roy Underhill came out with a new book…. Laaadie Frickin’ Daaa.

I am going to review Roy’s book in the blog today. However, I am not going to spew on about the latest Roy Underhill book the way everyone else is. I am going to give a quick review on the “forgotten” Roy Underhill book:

People who say Roy Underhill’s latest book is his first in 12 years seem to be glossing over “Shoe.”

For most of my life I have been watching Roy Underhill tell stories, and the fact is clear that he is one of the most talented communicators on the planet.

Each time I fire up an episode of The Woodwright’s Shop on Tivo, I am blown away by how quickly 22 minutes can pass. And to me it often seems as if he does the entire show in one take.

Friends, if you were to assign values to Roy Underhill’s abilities, his communication skill would rate higher than his knowledge of wood and tools. (And I think we know where he stands on those).

Most woodworkers know all about Roy’s knowledge of woodworking, but very few I have met realize that he wrote the Bible on public speaking and communicating with an audience. Back in 2000, Roy Underhill wrote Khrushchev’s Shoe, and it is effectively the most entertaining text book I have ever read.

Khrushchev’s Shoe is written in Roy’s inimitable style, and the examples, quotes, and illustrations are humorous yet perfectly on point. (It is probably a good thing that a book on communication does at least a fair job of communicating its message.)

Yet buried under the humor is a complete scientific analysis of the five phases of human communication: Getting Attention, Maintaining Interest, Making an Impression, Creating a Conviction, and Directing Action.

The great beauty of this book is that it addresses the science of communication in a way that holds the readers interest. (Roy, you managed to maintain my interest while making an impression.) An example of Roy’s use of scientific detail is a comparison of verbal spectrograms of speakers to visually accentuate the differences in the tonal qualities of their voices. Roy’s point is easily understood when the reader compares the spectrogram of Ben Stein as the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with that of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.’s Promised Land speech.

I believe that nearly everyone who can read and understand English should take the time to study and apply the principles outlined in Roy Underhill’s book Khrushchev’s Shoe. Certainly teachers and sales professionals can gain immediate benefit. However, I like to imagine the impact the book could have on the world of lab rat techies that I have so often worked with over the years. It is my belief that the GDP of the United States would quadruple over dinner if we could get our scientists and engineers to a place where they could explain to the person next to them, the things they so clearly see on the white board inside their brains. As an engineer who did equally well on the both the Math and Verbal part of the SAT, I can assure you that my ability to communicate has been a bigger key to a successful career than my ability to manipulate a calculator or slide rule.

In Khrushchev’s Shoe, Roy Underhill has provided us with an entertaining gem. However, this gem can be used to turn blank stares into what the author describes as a “’minds-on’ state of pleasurable cognition.” And when you can create that experience for your audience, your child, your boss, or the cop standing there with the ticket book… life is going to be as good as it can get.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance

She was short. It was 1996, and I still remember holding her in the Steak ‘n Shake parking lot and telling her that I wouldn’t be gone long. I was only moving to Michigan for 6 months at the most and I would come back to Indianapolis.

I just had to take the job up north to increase my salary and responsibilities before I could come back to Indianapolis as a “player.”

I believe our relationship was officially dead about two weeks later.

Then, I met Gail who had spent nearly her entire life in Holland, Michigan, and as the weather warmed and the frozen waves melted to reveal the beautiful white sand beaches of Lake Michigan, I fell in love not only with Gail but with this cute little town that cheers its Dutch Heritage.

Gail let me know from the moment I proposed to her that she would follow me anywhere in the world. (She apparently sees something in me that the vast majority of women never did…). Gail’s chance to follow through on that promise is just days away.

This weekend Gail and I are heading up to Traverse City for our annual color tour with the West Michigan section of the Mercedes Benz Club of America. We’ll scoot out of there on Sunday morning so we can make it back to Holland in time to watch the Colts play. Then, when the game is over, I’ll jump back in the car to complete the plan I started twelve and half years ago. To quote Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon, and Michael….”I’m going back to Indiana.”

On Monday morning, I officially exit the auto industry and jump into the most exciting challenge of my adult life. On Monday morning, I’ll wake up in Indianapolis and drive to my first day with what can likely be the last company I’ll ever work for.

There are lots of things to worry about. I don’t mean the part about finding a new house or debating with the movers just how big a jointer has to be before it becomes “excessive.” No, being me, my worries now shift to what to listen to while driving to that first day at my new office…

As Bernie Casey’s character John Slade said while takin’ it to The Man in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, “This is my theme music. Every good hero should have some.” So it’s important that I roll into my new place on Monday with just the right riff pulsating through the woofers and tweeters.

Right now I am leaning toward EWF. Even in the 21st Century, nothing backs up a hero like Earth, Wind, and Fire. However, I still cannot decide whether I want to set the tone for my career move with September, Let’s Groove Tonight, Got To Get You Into My Life, or Shining Star…. I have 3 days to decide.

FYI… just in case someone thinks I am kidding about this whole theme music thing…. feel free to verify with Gail what happened when I dropped her off for her class at church last night….

Imagine a silver Mercedes roadster with Earth, Wind, and Fire at 120 dB in a four wheel drift as it turns onto the church driveway at about 70 miles per hour…..

Baa Dee Yaa
Say do you remember
Baa Dee Yaa
Dancing in September...

That’s how I roll. And the scary part is… they want ME to be their latex salesman.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back....and to the Left!!!!!!

When I wrote my first published column for Popular Woodworking, “The Boys in the Guild,” the character Video Bob was autobiographical. It sometimes seems I own nearly every woodworking video ever made. Before I started attending classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking, my instruction came from David Marks on Woodworks and a massive stack of woodworking videos.

Today is one of those rare days around here when I offer you a posting that relates to woodworking. This entry is about SmartFlix dot com.

SmartFlix can most easily be described as the online video rental source for How-To videos. (Imagine if Netflix only carried instructional and how-to videos…. and then only charged you for the movies you wanted to rent as opposed to a monthly fee.)

The founder of SmartFlix (Travis Corcoran) is one of our regular Skiving Off readers, and his company has an amazing collection of videos available for rental. Their catalog has everything from Airbrushing to gunsmithing. SmartFlix has videos on rebuilding a Ford 9” to overhauling a C4 Tranny. Videos from all areas of woodworking are available. They have everything from Snowboard Instruction to Disaster Preparation. Their collection of approximately 6000 videos covers an amazing array of topics. (Please note, about the only obscure videos I was unable to find were the Zapruder home movies. Most of us have seen Abraham Zapruder’s Presidential snuff film, but very few people realize that he could shoot a kid’s birthday party like Fellini.)

So if you ever desire to spend a week learning the intricacies of intarsia or tie flying, but don’t want to drop a ton of coin to buy a video you’ll likely only watch one time… consider renting it from SmartFlix.

Finally, SmartFlix has a woodworking contest currently going on that is scheduled to end this week. If you have a few moments of web surfing time available, I encourage you to see what it is all about…you might still have time to win a prize.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bury My Bursa Sac at Broken Heart

I have been caught up in those moments of deep thinking again. I know, I know… the medication was supposed to squelch that. The truth is that the kids at the local middle school give me so much money for my prescriptions that the economics leave me little choice but to sell. So with my mind unaltered by the healing gift of the pharmaceutical industry, I again share with my faithful blog readers the random thoughts and questions that occupy my beautiful mind.

I often wake up at night with the same nagging question… If I could trade my voice with anyone else, would I choose Sam Elliot, Alec Baldwin, or the Allstate guy from The Unit?

Was the four bulb rotating cube the last big development in the flash bulb industry, or did I miss any? That is a technology that continues to move so fast it is sometimes difficult to stay up.

Friends, I cannot stress this enough. Remember to roll in a ball whenever you jump from a moving car. Don’t get so caught up in the moment you forget to “ball up.”

All my life I have heard some silly expression about a million dollar smile. “She’s got a million dollar smile.” So, yesterday it occurred to me that perhaps there is some truth to that. Specifically I am wondering if she can use that smile to get chips at a casino. How would the dealer/pit boss exchange go? “Smile changing a million….” “Change a million.” Does she have to give up the smile when she receives the chips? Does she have to get the full million dollars in chips, or can she just change a portion of the smile for a lesser amount? Perhaps she can just use the incisors for $10,000 at the baccarat table.

Did Debra Gibson go back to Debbie or not? Ricky Schroeder went full circle, passing through Rick, and is back to being Ricky… maybe Deb’ can do the same.

I was thinking about The Great Space Coaster. Did anybody ever get onboard? I never got onboard? Surely somebody had to pay attention to the song and follow the instructions to get onboard, but I just never met any of those folks.

I keep meaning to ask one of my Indian friends… what exactly was the injury at Wounded Knee? Was it an ACL or a meniscus problem, or what?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Doppelgängers Among Us

Yesterday Gail and I were out in public when I happened to look over at a giant tv that was showing the opening credits to the Disney Channel show, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Without hesitation I told Gail, “Ya know…Zack is ok, but that Cody is a little Jerk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

From there it spewed out of me…..

Friends, it is not commonly known that I differentiate between twins and find reasons for loving one while hating the other. It’s a personality quirk of mine.

For example, with the “group” NELSON, I clearly prefer Ricky Nelson’s one son over the other because Nelson #2 has a troubled credit history.

I cannot even stand to look at the Barbi Twins anymore since I found out that one of them had breast implants. Now each time I seem them, all I can think about is what a big phony the one girl is as she stands there with her hard working sister who didn’t jump on the surgical fast track to fame.

Even Ashley and Mary Kate are not above my scrutiny. Ashley is clearly superior because she is not only a better knitter than Mary Kate, but she also embodies that spirit that Aerosmith described as a “Missy who is ready to play.”

It is not just twins I do this with….I can give you 43 reasons why Richard Thomas’ middle triplet is superior to the other two.

And if people are honest with themselves, they will find that I am not the only person who discriminates between twins and other multiple birth siblings.

Who among us hasn’t mentally gone through the checklist of reasons why Jack B. Nimble is twice the man that Jack B. Quick will ever be?

I have always felt among the Bunker Twins, Eng was far superior to Cheng, especially at track and field events. Also, although I don’t have facts to prove it, my gut tells me Eng was a significantly better long distance runner than Cheng.

Romulus and Remus are quite easy to decide between. Remus was a great fellow. He is like your kind old uncle. And every year on Mothers Day, Remus would send a gift out to the Wolfpack. Romulus on the other hand was a selfish, evil man. It should have come as a surprise to no one when his jealousy overwhelmed him and he killed Uncle Remus.

Among the Pepper Twins, I have always preferred Sgt. Pepper to his pompous brother, Dr. Pepper. Sergeant Pepper dedicated his life to protecting the freedoms of the civilized world. Dr. Pepper only concerned himself with the bottom line profits and the ongoing struggle of his selfish plan to crush Mr. Pibb.

Finally, I arrive at my twin nephews Harrison and Jackson. Boys, so far it’s a dead heat. My love for you is still completely equal. However, since you turned 6 years old yesterday it is time that you start looking at the long term ramifications of your actions. I need to know which of you is more likely to visit me in “a home” 60 or 70 years from now. As soon as I know which of you is going to provide financial and emotional support for me in my declining years, I will be able to finally start discriminating between the two of you. Alright, Boys, let’s start competing for my love… GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And happy birthday to you both.)