Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gimme the Ball!!!!!!!!!!!

In life, the "Gamers" are the ones who want the ball in the closing seconds. "GIMME THE BALL!!!!!!!!"

"Somebody's gotta win this for us, and that's MY job. So.... GIMME THE BALL!!!!!!!!!!"

I wasn't always that guy.

One Indiana afternoon in 1985, Hebron High School's Junior Varsity Baseball team was down by 3 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th (the last inning), and I came up to bat. Like Roy Hobbs I could have won the game with a walk-off grand slam. Instead, my brain just kept thinking, "If I can draw a walk I will get an RBI, and then the top of the order could win the game for us." Three CALLED strikes later, I watched everybody run off the field while I stood motionless in the batter's box, having never even swung.

There was one person that year who came to every JV game (home or away) that we Dad. He gave me an amazing amount of support that season. And the words he had for me when I came out of the locker room for the trip home were simple but life changing, "Jeff, you will never hit the ball if you don't swing the bat."

I have not spent the last 24 years always hitting home runs, but I have taken my cuts.

A couple of years ago my accountant suggested I start an LLC for the woodworking/magazine writing side gig I had going. The best part of it was that I got to create a really cool name for my own private company. That is how I came to be the founder of Davidian Slingshots, LLC.

Throughout my life, I have often been able to encourage myself to accomplish nearly any dream I could come up with. With my slingshot of courage and confidence, I have knocked down more than my share of giants.

Yet, there are still some things out there that scare me.

This week I decided to beat the crap out of one of the fears I have always had. For the first time ever, I committed to rid my body of some blood without using a bicycle, a woodworking tool, or someone else's hockey stick. This week I decide to face and defeat my fear of needles by donating blood.

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts sponsored a blood drive at Lucas Oil Stadium. I scheduled an appointment for 12:15, and made my way down there just before lunch time. I filled out the paperwork and then met with the lady who would pre-screen me. I seemed to have all of the right answers to the questions regarding sharing needles and sexual contact with other guys and prostitutes.

I was riding a wave of positive self talk that had me convinced I would overcome my lifelong needle fear and leave a pint of my O+ behind.

Then, she asked for details about my recent travel outside of the USA.

Up until the middle of May, I had not yet secured a single frequent flier mile (domestic or international) during 2009. By the end of October I had reached Gold Elite status with more than 50,000 miles on one airline alone. (It's been a busy second half of the year, people.)

France didn't bother her. Apparently, Foie Gras doesn't taint one's blood.

Brazil made her go to the chart. She produced a map of Brazil and asked where I have been. I pointed to Rio and Sao Paulo in the "green" area of her map, and she nodded approvingly. I pointed to Manaus in the red-shaded Amazon area of her map, and her face fell.

She then told me that I was not able to donate blood until one year after my last visit to that area.

I nearly cried. For real.... All of the energy that I had spent the day stirring into my recipe for courage instantly turned into the shoulder shaking agony of an unrealized goal.

She gave me a brown paper that I was to show to another lady at the exit. This paper would apparently indicate to the "check out lady" why I was leaving with neither a bruise nor a Band-Aid.

There were hundreds of people at the stadium waiting to donate. I held the tears in, and did the long walk of shame, giving no outward indication of whether or not I was gay..... whether or not I sleep with prostitutes.... or whether or not I share needles with my fellow junkies.

I didn't mind the stares. I really didn't care what anyone thought. I just felt rejected. I felt like I dug deep and travelled way beyond my comfort zone in order to offer something to the world....only to be told I wasn't good enough.

I had excuses. I told myself that my company had needed me at our factory in the Amazon more than Central Indiana needed my blood. Yet, the reality was that I had failed in this attempt to donate my first pint of blood, and I am not a guy who handles failure very well.

I made it through my walk of shame, and I showed the lady the brown paper. She said, "Thanks for volunteering. We appreciate your desire and your effort to come down here." Then, she handed me a football.

As part of the Colts sponsorship, donors were given a commemorative football with a facsimile autograph of Defensive Back, Marlin Jackson. It was a really nice football. It was not a cheap, plastic piece of junk. It was really nice.

I wasn't going to refuse my gift, so I let her give me the ball. Then, it all came back to me....

You won't hit every ball you swing at. But you will certainly miss every ball you are too afraid to swing at.

I am not yet a blood donor. However, I will be.

Even if the battle has been postponed until a later date, I have already seen the Blood Donation Needle Giant standing there taunting me and my little slingshot. What he doesn't know is, I am Jeff Skiver, and I am not just calling for the ball.... HELL!!!! They already gave it to me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Man of Principle, Too

Sometimes life takes a turn that you just didn't see coming.

Yesterday seemed like a normal day during the early part. Who would have thought it could spiral out of control to where I would end up spending the night in jail?!?!?!?

Although my attorney has told me to keep my mouth shut, I feel I must let everyone know the truth about the event that led to me beating the living dog-S&%$# out of the guy at the Gas & Sip.

I don't make it a habit to go around putting the smack down on people, but I believe that there are times when you are left with no option but to advance to fisticuffs.

In this case I happened to encounter a guy who was so off his rocker and spewing stupidity that I felt justified in putting a stop to the lies he was spreading. Here is how it went down.

As I pulled the Benz into the Gas & Sip next to USA (United Skates of America), I immediately saw Ron Cassletwin's Purple Vega. Let's face it, we all know that at any given roller disco tournament in the Eastern United States it's always going to come down to Ron Cassletwin or me. That's a given. So I expected Ron to be at the competition. What I did NOT expect was to have Ron start his trash talking in the parking lot of the Gas & Sip before we even got to the skating rink. Still that is exactly what he did.

I was just trying to put 13 gallons of premium in my AMG SLK when that assclown in the purple sequin'ed jumpsuit rolled my way. Looking down I saw that Ron had raised the stakes, as he was sporting a new pair of Humphrey 600's...the Reidel 120R derivative that has l
imited edition chrome plate & trucks, Humphrey ceramic bearings, and Bones elite wheels. Where Ron got $600 for new skates I will never know. Most likely he has been pimpin' his purple clad ass out teachin' lessons to Middle Age Mamas who want to relive the Shaun Cassidy glory days. Nevertheless, the fact he was rollin' on his Reidels on a gas station parking lot still confirmed that even with new wheels, Ron is still the biggest dumbass on the planet.

With Ron rolling toward me, I embraced the tiger and returned to mountain and thought I was calm enough to handle whatever he was going to spew at me..... attacks on my equipment, my patented reverse roll scissor kick, or even my mother.

Instead, Ron went the one place he shouldn't have gone....he went after THE MUSIC.

The entire world knows that the single greatest song to Roller Disco to is Walter Murphey's Fifth of Beethoven. So when Ron got up in my face and began to preach that David Shire's Manhattan Skyline was better...I just sort of snapped.

Even now as I replay it in my head it all seems to be in slow motion. I see my fist flying through the air. I see Ron's hair piece remain stationary in the air as I punched his face right out from under it. I see the waving flash of purple sequins and the sickening sound of Uethane wheels helplessly scrambling for traction on the diesel residue on the pavement. I still feel the cold steel of the cuffs as the Hamilton County Sheriff's department took me away. Worst of all I can still see my attorney telling me that Ron Casseltwin won the 2009 Roller Disco-Hoosier because I wasn't there to represent.

I don't know....I suppose I should have been prepared for anything. But it's one thing to attack's completely different to attack THE MUSIC.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Man of Amazing Potential...

I am so deeply touched.

I have been weeping all day. There is just such a strong wave of emotions.

I just received word from Norway, that I have been given the 2009 Nobel Prize for Parenting.

I am sure that there are some who will say that I do not deserve this award and the fact that I am not even a father makes a mockery of the entire Nobel process. However, I think it is important to remember that I have the potential to be a father. Therefore, based upon my great and almost limitless potential for parenting success, it is understandable that I should be honored with this prestigious new award from the legendary Nobel Committee.

What makes it even more special is the fact that I have also been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics. While it is noteworthy that I am not actually a Physicist (my undergraduate degree is Mechanical Engineering), the Norwegian Nobel Committee
recognized that I am quite captivated by high tech gadgets like mobile phones and Blu-Ray players in awarding me the highest prize for Physics.

Nevertheless, there is a tinge of sadness. Despite my obvious joy for the two Nobel Prizes I was given today, I am upset that the Committee overlooked the great work we have done here at Skiving Off when they snubbed me. Friends I regret to inform you that once again I was not awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gimme Three Steps

Note: This is not a sad, dead-dog entry…even though it is about a dog that is no longer alive.

A couple of years ago our dog Simon developed acute Pancreatitis and over the course of five days deteriorated so rapidly that we chose to end his suffering. An interesting point of his treatment was one morning when we arrived at the animal hospital and our veterinarian (Dr. Jill) said, “So tell me about his gunshot wound.” I remember I stared at her for a moment, and then while suppressing an incredulous tone, I calmly said, “Dr. Jill, we’re here to see Simon. He wasn't shot. He's the yellow lab that cannot keep any food down.” Dr. Jill said, “No!!! Not shot right now, Jeff. In the past he was shot. Simon's x-ray shows a couple of pellets still in his body.”

(Actual X-ray of Simon Skiver, Yellow Lab)

At that moment I was again reminded that one can never know the full history of a rescue dog. We got Simon from the West Michigan Chocolate Lab Rescue when he was about 2 years old. He was a fit little guy with an incredibly sweet disposition and a camouflage collar. I later figured out that the reason a perfect purebred Yellow Lab dressed in a camo collar would be at a rescue shelter was because he likely refused to be a hunter. I imagined his early puppyhood being trained to fetch ducks and geese and living the life of a working hunter. Then, one day he gets an injection of Remington pellets and refuses to ever again be a gun dog.

I picture his having a bad-ass hunter name like Rex, and after his scabs healed the great hunter (his first human) came along to the kennel and said, “Let’s go, boy. We need to repel a Mallard invasion.”

The dog (the former Rex) looks up and says, “Screw Off!!!!”

The hunter says, “Whatsa matter, fella. You LOVE to go hunting.”

Rex (the future Simon) replies, “Past tense, dumbass. I LOVE-D to go hunting. Perhaps you don’t remember that last trip where you shot my ass?!?!?! Now why don’t you be a good boy and you and that gun of yours go get me some kibble.”

I imagine that the hunter did take Rex for a trip…down a country road and left him where he ended up in the dog pound near South Bend, Indiana and eventually onto the WMCLR where they gave him the new name of Simon.

Another possibility is that Rex (Simon) played it real cool and acted like he wanted to go hunting. Then, as soon as he and the hunter reached the wetlands area, he hightailed it for the hills all the while looking over his head and screaming, “Shoot me again, Mother F(&^)&*(er!!!!!!!!!!! Shoot my ass again!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Regardless of how the facts played out, I just know that I ended up with an incredibly loving and sweet dog that worshiped the ground I walked on. Perhaps if a dog gets shot early in his life it makes him better appreciate a sedate life of lying around in an air conditioned house watching TV.

(We let him keep the camo collar for a few months before we got him a nice leather one.)

It seems we will never know how Simon got shot.

There is one other possibility I thought of, but I highly doubt it. Part of me believes that in the future I might find that before he was adopted by us, Simon may have been a Gansta Rapper. Maybe if you pull up that last known photo of Tupac taken on the Vegas strip and analyze it closely…perhaps there could be a little yellow lab puppy tail visible in the back seat?

And with that thought, we have come full circle on how my brain works. Because the only reason I have been pondering the early life of my former dog Simon is because of a realization I made last night while explaining to some friends why I believe Neil Young is the most annoying singer ever.

My quote of the night was:
Most people fail to remember that long before there was East Coast/West Coast and long before there was Tupac vs Biggie Smalls, there was Neil Young versus Lynyrd Skynyrd. The difference is that back then, guys didn’t just go around blasting each other with guns; they just waited for God to make the choice with a nice plane crash.

God, I realize that You love to use airplanes to cull the Rock and Roll herd (Bopper, Richie, Buddy, the irrepressible Ricky Nelson, etc). But what in the world would have ever possessed You to be on Neil Young’s side against Skynyrd?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Keeping it Fresh...

Friends, I am back from Brazil and busily planning for a trip into the heart of the Amazon (Manaus) next week.

It would be so easy to just ignore the blog for a few weeks until things settle down, but I am not going to do that.

So even though this is short, I am tossing you a bone to keep it savory.

This is the best joke I have written in the last 3 days. Feel free to use it. (Hell, there's a chance one of my comedian buddies has already stolen it and used it on the radio or on stage.)

Here goes...

The next time someone launches into a story that is a complete waste of your time, here is what you do. Hold up a finger and say, "I hate to interrupt, I need to take a moment to download the 'GIVE A SHIT App' for my iPhone."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Absense Makes the Heart Grow Fonder...


You just never know how popular you really are.

I did my normal Google search of my name today to see how things have changed after going 3 months without a blog entry.

Look what I found....

There are some who say they are fans of the blog, but look at Hannah Bradley. That chick went and changed her middle name to "Jeff Skiver."


Others have claimed to be my "Number 1 fan". One person was just non-committal enough to claim to be my "Number 2 fan."

But Hannah Bradley showed her allegiance without ever even emailing me to tell me how much she loved my work.

Folks, I am sorry for going away for so long. I just never realized how much everyone loves me.

If any other Skiving Off fan has enacted a name change, gotten a tattoo, or (in the case of a black fraternity member) gotten my name or image BRANDED on their body.... feel free to let me know.

You are the people who make all of the hard work and suffering worthwhile.

As Coach Dale said, "I love you guys."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can You and YOUR Dog Please Fix My Car?

Gail and I had a discussion last night to determine which of us appears more insane based upon the blog entry from yesterday.

The consensus is that I alone am insane since the validity of most of what I wrote about Gail is questionable.

Nevertheless, I went with the “I did it to protect you!!!!!!” defense.

Since it is evident to the whole world that I am out of the country, I had to throw something out there to put trepidation and fear in the heart and mind of anyone who might think of stopping by the Flying J Circle S Dude Ranch and Woodshop and making off with a Panther Saw, a Bridge City Foxtail, or a 25th Anniversary Lie-Nielsen 4 ½.

It seems the house is a somber, lonely place at the moment. Each day Gail sends me camera phone photos of Peyton camped out at the front door waiting for me to get home.

Then, late at night Gail goes down to the door and drags his furry butt up to bed where he apparently drifts off to sleep thinking of me and then wakes up the next morning still thinking of me. (It is sort of flattering to be loved like that, even by a dog.)

By comparison, calls to Gail while I am in Brazil do not find her moping around awaiting my return. Rather, calls to Gail find her at Vera Bradley shopping for hand bags.

Gentlemen, this is my bit of wisdom for the day….

Women say they love you, but manage to “move on” before your car is out of the driveway.

Dogs not only fail to sense you are leaving, but then struggle to even function without you.

The difference is: “Have you ever seen a dog in a bikini?”

Even if you get beyond the hair, the bumpy parts just aren’t in the right spots.

So we always come home to the ladies. And they show us their new hand bags, new shoes, and a flat tire on the SUV that needs IMMEDIATE attention.

Guys, if it weren’t for fixing flats and replacing wiper blades, we might just be completely unnecessary to women of this planet. Then, our lives will have gone to the dogs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Latest Google Latitude Update Shows Skiver in Brazil

Holy Shit....who are you people???

God as my witness, I was just sitting in a restaurant eating lunch in Rio when my Blackberry buzzed indicating yet another person was pissed at me and willing to tell me so.

Lo and behold, instead, it was an email letting me know someone named "Murphy" had commented on the Blog I used to have.

When I read the comment I got scared trying to think of all the people who might know I was in Rio this week....

In the last three months, I have traveled a lot. I keep meaning to add an update or two to inform the three people who still give two shits (that would be 6 total shits...) what all Peyton and I have been doing during our travels.

Nevertheless, I seem to never get around to updating the blog.

By the way, Peyton is not with me on this trip. Instead, he is home guarding the house this week, but it isn't really necessary given Gail is armed to the teeth and fully trained in how to deal with insurgents and trespassers based upon the time our government paid to send her to a very fancy debutante school located in an exciting place called Twentynine Palms, California. (Ooh-Rah!!!!)

When we bought the new house the first thing Gail did was disconnect the alarm system. When I asked her why, she replied, "On the off chance someone breaks in and I only manage to wound them....I don't want the authorities showing up and saving their ass. There's a lot better chance of their bleeding to death in the driveway if we just wait until the neighbors call in reporting the sound of my M1014...."

Original readers of this blog will well understand that I am married to a badass.

I once asked Gail why she alternates every other shell between buckshot and slugs. She replied, "Sometimes when you actively engage the opposition, one of the little shits loses his balls and wants to hide behind a door or a wall. You need the buckshot to ensure damage on multiple targets, but you need the slugs to penetrate solid cover...."

Original readers of this blog will well understand that I am married to a badass.

As I said, I am in Brazil. Peyton keeps texting me to ask when I will be home to order Gail and her Benelli to Stand Down.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You just keep me hangin' on...


I don't have nearly enough time to explain where I have been the last three weeks.

However, as a public service to the four people who still follow the blog, I am going to at least toss you a bone by sharing the best joke I came up with yesterday. (Today's best joke is far too R-rated for this blog; but yesterday's was ok).

If a Jewish guy gets Swine addition to his being sick, is it also a sin???

Finally, in case you are wondering there is a good chance that my 3 week absence involves my beating the living dog Sh^%$ out of a prostitute who tried to play Hannibal Lecter with my tongue during a night of partying in Miami. Isn't that crazy??? I shoot one Shamwow spoof, and the next thing you know my whole life starts mimicking Vince's.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

You Gettin' This, Camera Guy?!?!?!?

I need a haircut. It's about a week overdue to get chopped back.

I really like my hair. I am very happy it has decided to stick around as long as it has. I recently had to make a decision about my future with regard to the onesy-twosy strands of silver that are appearing at the temples. The shift to gray hair is not quite as bad as that seen during the first 100 days of those poor schmucks elected President of the USA, but the last few months have seen an increase in my silver. I plucked the first 20 or so that showed up, but I finally realized that after the age of 25, guys really shouldn't pluck perfectly good hair from the head.

So I am accepting the biologically-forced integration of my hair and allowing the silver ones to peacefully reside alongside the sorrel'ish ones.

Given how much I care about my hair, it's not like me to miss a haircut? However,I needed my top follicles long enough to put it into a nasty, spiky doo.

Regular readers know what Skiving Off is about: Dogs, cars, and Music...with a dash of woodworking that focuses on collecting tools and visiting Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

This year's primary goal is to make the 2010 Lie-Nielsen Calendar. I told Tom a couple of years ago that I want to be one of the pair of hands in his annual calendar. I believe his dead pan response was, "Ya do, huh????" And then he just took the check I handed him and said with genuine enthusiasm, "Thanks. This order will be entered and shipped as soon as I return to Maine."

I decided to boost my case for making the calendar. Therefore, I recently enlisted the help of a "LIfe Coach." I couldn't afford any of the best life coach candidates on my list, so I ultimately settled for Vince (the Sham Wow guy).

In a very short time, Vince has changed my life. He has me dressing differently, talking louder, using bigger gestures, and generally grabbing life by the tail.

So, the video below is just the first step of my public quest to get included the Lie-Nielsen calendar. Let's see how it works out.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Helping Audrey Hepburn Fix Her Stutter

Time for a real Woodworking-ish post.

I'll admit that I have turned a few pens in the last couple of years. I haven't turned anything in 8 months, but way back when (last summer) it was nice because turning allowed me to complete projects in minutes as opposed to months.

As part of my pen turning supplies I have the Micro-Mesh kit that goes from 1500 to 12000 grit.

Over the weekend, an incident occurred that made me dig through the boxes of woodshop stuff that are still packed from our move from Michigan and found the Micro-Mesh kit.

As Gail and I were approaching the critical ending of one of our Netflix features (Breakfast at Tiffany's), the DVD started stuttering in the player. Finally the feature froze. Channeling my alter ego, the problem solving Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction, I simply Googled and found the last five minutes of the film on YouTube, and Gail and I watched it on my laptop.

However, it bugged me that the Netflix DVD was too scratched to be viewable.

Somewhere in my brain I recalled the story of Micro-Mesh being invented to polish scratches out of plastic aircraft canopies. So I hustled to the shop, found my Mesh, and came back to the living room to experiment on the Netflix DVD that I was only "renting."

The DVD had some serious scratches and the last 5 minutes of it was not playable. However, a little burnishing with 6000 grit, followed by 8000 and 12000 grit created a polished surface that was as good as new.

For real... the DVD scratches polished right out, and we re-inserted the DVD and watched the previously frozen ending of the film on our big LCD TV (to verify it was the same as what we had seen on YouTube). We then returned the DVD to Netflix in better shape than what it had arrived in.

I was so happy with the plastic polishing performance of Micro-Mesh that this morning I used it to restore an audio CD with more scratches than the "shackle wall" in Rick James' basement. My home-made Barry Manilow mix CD was so beat up from years of abuse that it was skipping horribly. But after a little Micro-Mesh love, I commuted to work singing Weekend in New England, Mandy, Can't Smile Without You, and Somewhere in the Night.

Bruce Johnston may write the songs that make the whole world sing, but thanks to Micro-Mesh, Barry and I are once again rockin' them out as a duet.

FYI... add this as a data point... apparently it is possible for a straight guy to be a big fan of both Audrey Hepburn and Barry Manilow. At least I THINK I'm straight. Wait. What does it mean when we add in the fact I prefer Truman Capote's novel of Breakfast at Tiffany's to the movie version????


God as my witness I have always thought I was straight. Who knew????

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Peyton Manifests Himself as a Lap Dog

We started the year (or at least closed out 2008) here at Skiving Off by talking about The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein’s novel about a dog that loves Formula 1 racing. Along with discussions of racing, Enzo (the narrating dog) also lays out the concept that life can be whatever you choose to make of it as he reminds us “that which you manifest is before you.”

My dog, Peyton, is similar to Enzo.

Last week, we needed to have our diesel Jetta shod with some summer rubber, so we took off to South Bend to visit The Tire Rack. I have been shopping at The Tire Rack for years, way back when they were on Chippewa Avenue and far less known. Now they have a massive facility with a really neat test track and they stand alone as the number one supplier of tires for performance cars in America. (They also supply boat loads of minivan tires, too).

Anyway, there were no driving events on the test track last Friday as we waited for the new tires to be installed on the Jetta. So Peyton and I passed the time playing fetch.

It is still shocking to Peyton to find pop bottles and cans just laying in the grass here in Indiana. (Say what you want, but Michigan’s 10 cent bottle deposit law keeps that state virtually free of discarded beverage containers). So when Peyton found a Sunkist bottle near the test track he insisted I start throwing it so he could chase after it and return it to me.

Being at a track with my dog couldn’t help but fill my head with memories of Garth Stein’s book. However, as positive as that book was for me, I think Peyton has found less realistic success from it. No matter how much Peyton manifests his “mindset”… it will NEVER change his reality. You see, Peyton still believes he is an 8 pound puppy. When Peyton looks in the mirror today, he continues to see this image.

The reality is that during his annual physical last week, the 24 month old Peyton weighed in at 95 pounds. However, Dr. Bader said that given his height and muscle tone, he is very close (within 2 or 3 pounds) to being at the correct/ideal weight. Unlike the sometimes chunky Abby and Simon who preceded him, Peyton is a big dog that is PURE muscle. Yet, given he lives in a world where he has to look UP to see every other human, he still believes he is that tiny 8 pound puppy we first brought home.

Combine his size delusion with the fact that Peyton is also a dog that CRAVES physical contact/snuggling and one can see the potential problem.

Last night (1:30 am this morning, really) I settled onto the couch to watch the start of the 2009 Formula 1 season in 1080i High-Def clarity, when the “little” racing dog decided to watch it with me.
(No one is allowed to comment on the fashions I display at 1:30 am...)

I suppose I need to get back to the workshop, where I can stand at the bench and Peyton can lay at my feet. Because the more time I spend watching TV while holding my little lap dog, the more likely I am to be suffocated.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t share Peyton’s comment following the end of the race. (A race that at this moment in time has Mercedes-powered cars in the top 3 finishing spots.) As they began playing “God Save the Queen” in honor of Jenson Button’s victory, Peyton looked up at me and said, “It is a rather curious case, but it seems like Jenson Button gets younger and younger as time goes by…”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Price of Having a Trophy Boyfriend

I have to apologize to someone.

I realize this is not the purpose of this blog but I am in a hurry.... so deal with it.

I failed to call my goomar yesterday to wish her a happy birthday.

She and I knew that we weren't going to see each other yesterday, but I suppose I still should have called... or at least given her a shout out from the blog. It was very insensitive of me. So here is my public apology.


Hey, Baby, I know I should have called yesterday. Ya know what.... the truth is that I got so carried away with my highly competitive badminton league that I forgot about calling you. I was wrong, and I am sorry.

In my defense, we weren't supposed to see each other anyway. Remember? I wasn't able to be with you yesterday, but we are supposed to go out this Saturday night to celebrate your birthday.

However, I just realized that this Saturday night I have to take a nap so I can get up at 1:30 am Sunday morning to watch the live broadcast of the Australian Grand Prix.

Honey, it doesn't look like I am going to get to do anything for your big day this year, but you're young. As long as you can continue to keep it out of the wall, you still have a whole bunch of birthdays in your future.

One other thing, Babygirl. Now that Gail and I are living in Indianapolis, she wants to actually go to the race with me. So I will be needing an extra ticket to the Motorola Luxury Suite. Don't get me wrong, if you can score me a golf cart and a fire suit I will still try to make it down to Gasoline Alley and pit road to see you while you're doing your thing, but I really need to stay with Gail.

Besides, this is just the price you pay for having me as your "trophy boyfriend." (And we know I'm worth it....)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who are You? Who? Who?

I don't know if it'll make a difference, but I figured it's time for me to start playing ball. -- 1986 Jimmy Chitwood, Hoosiers (the movie)

Well, boys and girls, I figured it’s time for me to start writing. -- 2009 Jeff Skiver, Hoosier (the birth-state classification)

Perhaps the relocation from Michigan to Indiana dragged me too far away from my muse. Maybe the new job is just too busy to allow my mind to wander to the far off places where my “What the @#%$@#“ thoughts dwell. I don’t know why I have found it so easy to go without updating the blog these past few weeks.

I must admit that most of the new material I have come up with recently is decidedly PG13 or stronger. Whether that is attributable to the rougher posse of cub scouts I have started hanging with or rather simply the fruit of my rapid journey toward secular humanism, I am not sure. I just know that everything I have come up with recently that has been funny enough to make those around me shoot beverages out of their nostrils is far too hard core for a blog that gets linked to by Woodworking Magazine.

My mind appears to be sharp. My wit is still Mach 5 fast. However, all of my punchlines are decidedly naughty. Here’s an example. (And this is the God’s honest truth.) Last week Gail and I were talking about 16 French cuff shirts that needed to go to the cleaners. I said we would be well served to find a Tuchman Cleaners closer to home, because I have an endless supply of Tuchman $1.79 coupons for Business Shirt Laundering. She replied that the last time when she left shirts at Beaver’s Cleaners the cost was $2.39 each. I asked, “Where did you take them last time?” She responded, “Beaver’s Cleaners.” I naturally said, “Well, I wasn’t questioning the name. I am just shocked to hear that Beaver’s Cleaners does full service dry cleaning. You see, Gail, I thought they only did Vinegar and Water rinsing.”

As you can see, it is a cute line, but it will likely drive away most of my remaining readers.

The real scary thing is that the timing of my blogging absence cost me some golden opportunities. For example, yesterday was the 20th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill. Do I wait another 5 years for the 25th Anniversary to put out my list of Top 10 Drunken Woodworking Mistakes? We’ll see.

I’ll tell you what. I have been gone so long, that I want to re-introduce myself to you. So below I am including the full text of my 2007 email to Chris Schwarz where I provided my autobiography. For my first appearance in Popular Woodworking, Chris asked me to provide some information about myself that could be written up into a paragraph that would make all of my former school chums and/or lovers go, “YEP!!!! That really is Skiver in that thar’ magazine.”

So friends, as I re-enter the blogging world, let me share with you who I really am:


Since the inclusion of my profile on the Contributors Page will likely double Pop Wood's circulation, I know how important it is for me to provide this information. I apologize for the delay, but I was not sure if you preferred my bio information written in first person or third person.

So instead of writing an eloquent autobiography, I am sending some facts that can be knitted together to form something of interest. I know it is possible to make it interesting, because 11 years ago I managed to come off as interesting enough to convince my wife to marry me. However, I am struggling at the moment to rise above the level of mediocrity.

I was born in Indianapolis, and I lived in various spots across the Hoosier state for the first 26 years of my life.

I received my Mechanical Engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1992. (Rose-Hulman has been ranked by US News & World Report as the top undergraduate engineering school in the country for over 10 consecutive years.)

I moved to Holland, Michigan in 1996 and met and married my wife (Gail) that same year. I work in the automotive industry designing car parts. Although for a couple of years I dabbled in the Engineering side of office furniture and household appliances.

Always a car guy, who thought all spare time should be spent with a wrench in one's hand, I unexpectedly stumbled into woodworking in 2004 when I built a sauna in our basement and found that I really liked it. Woodworking...not the sauna. (Actually, I love the sauna, too, but that is a different story I could write for Midwest Sauna Times Monthly...a bi-annual publication dedicated to the sedentary pursuit of naked pleasure in a dry heat environment.)

I am still experimenting with various forms of fine furniture (Modern, Arts & Crafts, and far.) I am steadily working my way chronologically back the furniture path. Eventually, I plan to get to Roman Crosses that I can supply to Stigmata groups and Passion Play Performers. I desperately need to finish building a workbench and tool cabinet for my shop, but everything I build seems to be for someone else. It should be noted I am not afraid to make my furniture pieces ugly as sin if that is what my "client" wants. I refer specifically to a Pink and Purple Arts & Crafts desk that I made for my niece Hannah. It is a colossus of Purpleheart and dyed Poplar that the mere sight of can induce seizures in infants and the elderly.

I read books, watch videos, and attend classes to learn how to do basic woodworking techniques that most people learned in shop class. I am a member of the West Michigan Woodworking Guild.

In the last year and a half I have become a fanatic of hand tools. What I lack in throughput of projects I make up for in collecting tools and lumber.

I am obsessive compulsive about saw dust, so I have a dust collection system suitable for a shop 400 times the size of mine.

I am desperately searching for a venture capitalist to be the silent partner in opening my own Woodcraft Franchise.

I am a disease-free, non-smoker with no visible tattoos or piercings. I received my last tetanus shot on 31JUL07. (Last Week)

Hopefully you still have that great digital photo I sent a couple of weeks ago. If not, just let me know, and Gail and I will shoot some more. I was thinking about doing a Senior Picture style shoot where I lay on my side in front of my Unisaw with my chin resting on the knuckles of my fist....very 1986....

By the way the part about the pink and purple desk is the God's-honest truth. The most highly crafted piece of furniture I have made so far is so intensely ugly that I am ashamed to show it to people. However, it is EXACTLY what Hannah wanted, so I daily wrestle with the fear that I compromised my art for the sake of making a little girl happy.

Thank you,

Jeff Skiver

Monday, March 9, 2009

What Friends Do...

Drivel. It’s what I spew. However, some folks find it entertaining; so I am generally not too ashamed of the goofy thoughts I share with the world through the blog.

When I started my new job back in October, one of the first people I met was Fran Kandrac. I tend to have a keen eye for humans and dogs, and it was immediately apparent to me that Fran is one of those people who knows everything and could effortlessly help me with any job related tasks I did. I quickly made friends with Fran.

One day Fran and I were talking about non-work stuff, and it came out that I spew drivel out onto the World Wide Web. When I was done describing the blog and my magazine articles, Fran told me about her website.

What followed was my realization that some of us use the internet for self promotion as they tell goofy little jokes, and others use the internet to help the people around them. Fran is a genuinely funny woman, but her website isn't a silly little blog full of one liners. Fran's provides help for people who need a friend.

I wasn’t thinking about websites when I got an instant message from Fran this morning. My first thought was, “Oh God, tell me I didn’t actually hit “SEND” on that little spoof email to the North American Vice President…”

Instead, Fran’s instant message was telling me that Daryn Kagan was going to have her own show on Oprah Radio. Admittedly, my next thought was to head toward Fran’s office and tell her she had mistaken me for someone who cared about Oprah Radio. However, before I did that I thought I would click on the link Fran had attached. So I clicked, and after I got past my initial guy reaction… “I’ve never heard of Daryn Kagan, but she is fairly hot”… I realized that she (Daryn) was talking about my friend Fran.

How cool is it that on the very day where Daryn Kagan makes her debut on Oprah Radio, she uses her personal website to highlight the work that Fran Kandrac and her daughters, Aimee and Stephanie, are doing through their website:

Plagerized (or quoted) from the website, the purpose of What Friends Do is:

“When a life-changing event happens, friends and family want to help! The webtool is a FREE website that can help family and friends form a "Team" and respond in an organized and helpful way. Helping a friend through a life-changing event involves lending a hand with meals, transportation and other tasks. These events also call for understanding, love and uplifting support.”

I seldom ask my drivel fans of Skiving Off to do anything for me, but this one is special. So, today I am encouraging you to do two things for me. Check out the
video at that describes the work of the Kandracs. Then, I ask you to visit and imagine the possible ways that you can use this tool to positively impact someone.

One idea... I suppose we could start a “Team” for someone we know who recently relocated back to his hometown (Indianapolis) from Michigan. Ya know… it’s a lot of work getting settled into a new

Fran: Congratulations. I am glad to see your good work get the national exposure it deserves. Also, Accounting crapped all over my last expense report... can you take care of that for me???? Don't kill anyone... just scare them. (You're the best.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jeffy-san... Touching Lives at Toyota

Folks, we really are changing lives with this blog.

Well, perhaps we are affecting/annoying lives more than changing them. I was reminded of this when I checked the blog hits Monday morning. I know I have mentioned how shocked I am at the variety of international visitors we get to Skiving Off, and through MapLoco, I am able to get a visual representation of our international guests.

Here is the MapLoco screen I was greeted with on Monday. I have masked off most of it to reveal the one I want to call out....


You might think, "Big deal, Jeffy. You were in the auto industry for over 15 years, surely you have friends at Toyota who are following your BS rants?!?!?!" The reality is that I never worked on any Toyota stuff. I had Honda/Acura projects. I even had a Mazda program, but I never dealt with Toyota.

(Footnote up in the middle of the text: I was taught everything I know about Lean Manufacturing and TPS from Russ Scaffede and Art I am to Toyota what 99% of American black people are to's sort of in my DNA, even if I have never been there.) CRAP!!!!! I'm digressing.

Anyway, I have to believe that our visitor from Toyota's world headquarters in Japan was here because of our Fat Tuesday blog entry. If you remember you will see that on February 24th we jump started a couple new Urban Legends right here on the blog. One of those involved a complete fabrication about Toyota fuel tank fires. It seems that in less than one week, some poor sap at Toyota's world headquarters was having to log onto my blog to find out what was being put out there to the general public.

How cool is that?

Now I realize there is no way our new "Burning Toyota" urban legend made it around the globe in less than a week. Instead, he was probably put onto it through a normal Google search for recalls and fires and what not. There are folks in the OEM safety offices who do nothing but monitor the news for the tiniest occurances in order to head off problems before they become big, nasty class action things.

Still, with the auto industry imploding, our little blog pulled at least one salaried employee in Japan away from productive work for at least a couple of minutes.

I can almost hear Clarence Odbody (AS2) whispering in my ear, "Each man's life touches so many others..."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Diane Lane Makes Another Play For My Affections

Alright, I now have confirmation that Diane Lane is messin’ with me.

Let’s face it, she had me back at Lonesome Dove. She really doesn’t need to keep doin’ these things to keep making me prove over and over that I’m still crazy about her.

Then again, it could likely be Netflix’s fault.

Netflix knows that Gail is the action car-chase half of our marriage, and I am the emotional crier. Netflix somehow knows my true feelings for Nicholas Sparks…even if there are more deaths than an episode of the Sopranos, his books suck in the emotional crying girl in me.

The Skiver Netflix queue belongs to me… not Gail. So the last three that arrived were an eclectic mix: Anatomy of a Murder, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, and one other.

This afternoon Gail and I watched the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “Nights in Rodanthe.”

It is in Rodanthe that Diane Lane did her latest little thing for me. In fact, it may have been the absolute HOTTEST thing I have ever seen on film (or upconverted DVD). Diane Lane was hand cutting joinery. A Hollywood vision of physical beauty was dovetailing. Diane truly raised the bar as she made this latest move to win me.

The last time she made a blatant play for me was a couple of years ago in “Must Love Dogs.” In that, she not only chose a movie with a dog theme, but there was also a woodworking connection. (Her character was hooking up with a John Cusack character that was a boat builder). Gail can tell you the horror of my constant pausing and zooming during Must Love Dogs to see if John Cusack was using a Lie-Nielsen block plane, verifying the clamps were Besseys, etc.

Still, in Rodanthe Diane Lane takes our relationship to a whole different league. It has her sharpening chisels and plane irons. Then she moves on to cutting half blind dovetails. She climaxes by using her plane shavings to burnish the surface of the smoothed wood.

Diane, I told you… you had me at Lonesome Dove, honey. I am very flattered that you keep trying to prove to yourself that I really am into you, but wouldn’t it be more efficient to just give me a call instead of making your moves through the movie roles you choose.

In closing, let this be the proof of the sincerity of my feelings about Diane. Diane Honey, it didn’t even matter to me that you cut the tails first. With the way you look, I can overlook what would normally be a show stopper. I won't give up my pins-first philosophy, but I'll tolerate you and your tail(s).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Legends of Fat Tuesday

I have decided to make a confession to everyone… I am the sick and twisted mind behind some of the most famous urban legends of all time.

That whole thing about the gang members in the car with no headlights, just waiting to gun down the first person who flashes their brights at them… that was me.

The goofy idea that the Great Wall of China is the only manmade object you can see from space…again….all me.

Most everything you have ever read about Skull and Bones and Templar Knights is just stuff I make up to try to mess with the people of this planet. It’s something I have been doing since I was a kid, and I was reminded today of where it all started.

I happened to look at a website describing the events of “This Day in History” and realized that on February 24, 1981, Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. At that moment, I had just moved from Elida, Ohio to Beech Grove, Indiana and I chose this momentous day in history to mess with all of my new classmates. I told a couple of kids that I was the one who hooked up Chuck and Di. (Please note… phonetically speaking I just said, “Upchuck and Die”.) I came up with a whole story about my family having recently lived in England where Diana Spencer was my nanny. I explained that my parents knew Charles, and the rest was going to be the stuff of fairy tale romance. And when these classmates were dumb enough to believe it, I was off to the races with this little mind game experiment that continues to this day.

So with this confession behind me, I am now going to share with you some of my upcoming seeds that I have yet to plant. However, when you hear these Urban Legends in your own neighborhood in the coming weeks, you will realize that you read it here first.

1) There is a bicyclist in West Michigan who is carrying a Sig Sauer 9mm, and the first person this year who honks at him, while screaming for him to get off the road and onto the sidewalk is going to get a cap busted off in him. (Obviously this is very similar to my headlight flashing one, but the repeats of the classics are the ones that always get the most attention and make it the farthest along the email chains)

2) The Toyota Camry production for late 2005 was compromised and there was at least one day’s production where the fuel filler hose may not be properly clamped to the fuel tank. Even though 54 fires have resulted from this, Toyota has managed to kill all of NHTSA’s efforts to force a recall. Please pass along this important note to everyone you know that has a Toyota Camry. Actually, it may be best to pass this scary information along to everyone in your list of email contacts who may own a Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, or ANY car that carries an Asian name. (We can’t be too safe where there are fires concerned.)

3) There is new information to suggest that Barack Obama, Sr did not die in a car crash in Nairobi back in 1982. Instead, he has been running black ops for the Kenyan government since then, and the death was staged as a means of providing his deep cover. With his son being the President of the USA, his role in the intelligence community now calls into question the safety of all US government secrets.

4) All applications that iPhone owners have purchased are scheduled to permanently expire on Steve Job’s birthday due to a fault with the digital rights management.

5) Tom Brady’s recent knee injury was unknowingly treated with cadaver meniscus that was infected with HIV. Tom has not yet tested positive for AIDS…yet.

See how it works? The beauty of the internet is that any crap you can make up and say (or type) with a straight face can now be spread around the globe in a manner of minutes. Unless, of course, you are emailing with your iPhone, in which case you will only be able to share these bits of knowledge until Mr. Jobs’ NeXT birthday. Quick!!!! Somebody find out when that is.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My God Complex

My first nickname for my new shop was Mammoth Cave. It was an obvious choice given when we moved in the 1800 square feet of basement space was lit by 5 overhead lightbulbs. It was dark enough that with the addition of a little water and some fish eggs, within a generation or two the scaly descendants would have devolved to be born without eyes.

There was a time years ago when I was tasked with packaging map lamps and reading lamps in mini-vans and SUVs. So I seem to remember nightmares of Footcandles and Lux as I strove to focus light on areas that passengers would want illuminated, all the while blocking stray light that would disturb the driver’s view. Yep, automotive interior lighting paid the bills for a few years back then.

Now I have the task of illuminating something I care about.

Ideally, I could come up with about 100 lumens per square foot, but when I look at throwing up 180,000 lumens of fluorescent shop lamps in my basement…it’s a fairly big task.

Nevertheless, I went ahead and did a temporary addition of some 4 foot long T8 shop lamps to at least shed enough light for me to take the first photos of my new shop that many of you have asked for.

There will be more to come in the blog, but on the Creationist model, we are at Day One:

In the beginning was Jeff and his shop. And the shop was void and without form. And Jeff said, “Let there be light.” And Jeff saw that the light was good. So he shot a couple digital photos and promised to add some more to the blog when he had time.

Then, he went out and had a Guinness.

Below are some pictures of the new shop along with descriptions...

My wood pile. It's mostly airdried cherry, but it also has bubinga, hard maple, purpleheart, quartersawn white oak, birdseye maple, etc. It is unstickered and measures 11 feet 8 feet by 4 feet. It's 300+ cubic feet of amazing collection of lumber.
Who doesn't have 10 ft long pieces of Birdseye Maple just randomly thrown into their woodpile?

Looking down the "machine" side of the shop: past the jointer, Unisaw, planer, drill press, chopsaw, etc... all the way down to the massive woodpile.
Looking from the "Bench Area" toward the Cyclone in the corner. 18" Bandsaw is on the right and a boatload of 6" PVC ductwork on the left.

The "Bench Area" is about 3 times bigger than my entire shop in Michigan. Here you can see my Holtzapfel Bench, my tiny little Soberg bench, and the Metal Tool Cabinet that is actually the base of the biggest Router Table known to man, courtesy of Woodpeckers, Inc.

There will be better photos and much better descriptions to come. I promise.

Monday, February 16, 2009

An Intervention for THE LAW

Whether it was the Buddy Holly-less Crickets, The Clash, or even the Bobby Fuller Four… whole hoards of folks have lined up to take on The Law, only to slink away with their tails between their legs when The Law opened up a can of whoop ass on them.

The Law's reputation as an undefeated badass was fairly well established, until Judas Priest started bragging. I cannot help but feel that singular act started the downward spiral that we have seen in The Law.

I think Judas Priest's "Breakin the Law" planted a seed that has manifested itself into self-doubt that has all but crippled The Law.

Recently I ran into The Law and found the carefree character committed to justice that we all knew from our youth was now just a broken down neurotic hermit obsessed with his arms.

Years ago it was recognized that The Law had arms of unequal length. However, it was understood that the Long Arm of the Law was sort of an overly powerful, bionic arm, as opposed to being a case of the short arm being a handicap. Yet the last time I saw The Law, it was favoring the short arm like a useless, little, floppy appendage. To those who hadn't seen the law in its more vigorous, youthful days, they would have thought the short arm was the remains of a non-viable parasitic twin.

I realize now I should have intervened at that moment, but I didn't think it was my place.

I wish now I had confronted The Law. Had I done that, here is what I would have said:

"Stop it. Stop it right now. I'm getting really sick of your complaining about your short arm. You have a fully functioning arm that is just slightly shorter than your long arm, yet you are going around like some kind of freak. It's not like you're a T-Rex, for crying out loud. Is that what you want? You want to be treated like a Tyrannosaurus Rex… like both arms are so short you can't brush your teeth or scratch your ass? You need to snap out of this victim mentality. You are STILL The Law. Don't you remember when you fought Bobby Fuller and his band of street toughs? You not only won; you kicked their butts. So Judas Priest broke you??? So what??? You gotta get back up, fella. If you don't start taking care of yourself, you are going to end up rotting away. I didn't want to tell you this, but your Uncle Torah was having identity problems, and Exodus told me that he heard Leviticus and Deuteronomy were talking of seceding. You know if they go, anarchy will start to reign. Why it wouldn't be long before the second and third parts will leave your cousin Thermodynamics, too. Then, once they're gone, everyone will start to question all of the Newtonian family of laws.

You have to be the stop gap. You're The Law!!!!!!!!

Listen, Buddy, you've been through too much to give up now. Think back to your days sitting there on Capitol Hill. Remember when you were just a Bill? Back then, you didn't care about arm length, and you weren't worried about being broken by Judas Priest. Back then you were ready to do whatever you had to do to climb above being just a Bill and to rise above all of the unproven theorems and the sea of postulates.

You're still The Law, and we need you, Buddy. Without you, we wouldn't have Kinematics, Physics, or a host of restrictions as to where and when we can buy alcohol.

Here's what you do…

Put together a Rube Goldberg weight lifting machine in the cab of your big rig, and start flexing that long arm the way Sylvester Stallone did in "Over The Top." You can come back even stronger than you were before. In fact, you should do that.

Start pumping iron now, and do not stop until you are stronger than you ever were. For only when you are an overbearing, omnipotent, oppressive force like your cousin Sharia, can free men everywhere get back to being the mindless hamsters that Big Brother wants them to be.

We need you, Law…for only you have the power to overextend yourself and impose your will on man in a way that cripples creativity, compassion, and free thinking.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The New Shop (an Icelandic Hot Spot)

I am alive.

The reason for the two weeks without communication is that I have FINALLY moved out of my parents house. Also, I have (just today) re-established a connection on the Information Superhighway.

Last week Gail and I finally closed on the purchase of our McMansion after weeks of underwriting delays caused by all of the refinancing geeks who wanted to lock in the sub-five percent rates.

Last Friday the movers started unloading the first semi trailer of stuff, and they finished it yesterday. It is interesting how things were divided between the two moving trucks. The top of my Holtzapfel bench arrived Friday. The base was delivered yesterday. I can only imagine how the time apart will affect their long term relationship.

I now have the daunting task of setting up the new shop. The basement of the new house is just over 1800 square feet, so I finally have a massive space to fit all of my crap (tablesaw, jointer, planer, band saw, chop saw, router table, work benches, sharpening station, tool cabinets, lumber, etc). However, I have to do everything from scratch with regard to things like running the 220V lines, and piping the dust collection for the cyclone. It's weird that what was sort of fun when I set up my first shop is now just rattling around in my brain as being a big pain in the ass.

Setting up the tablesaw the day I bought it was sort of fun. I relived everything I had learned from Kelly Mehler's book and video. Now, I just see it as a source of tension that it was necessary to remove the perfectly square fence and cast iron table top in order to move the Unisaw to its new home.

On a bright note, the movers somehow moved my jointer from the old basement shop to the new basement shop without having to disassemble it. So there are no gib screws to tinker with.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. This is probably a good problem to have. Perhaps this is akin to some guy complaining about how rough it is to change the oil in his Ferrari 250GTO or go shopping for lingerie for his supermodel wife. Oh woe is me for having to do so much work to reassemble my dream shop. Still, I needed to vent to someone.

Let me leave you with one assurance, though.... this blog will continue to be the same smartass stuff you have come to love. I promise to not turn this into a 3 month documentary of setting up the new shop.

Let me leave you with something else. (Really this is just something for myself). I have noticed that I get almost NO blog hits from Iceland, and this was even before the country went bankrupt. So in an effort to get a big rush of hits from Iceland, I want to do a little bit of keyword spamming... just to stir up the traffic from Iceland. Here goes: Reykjavic Escort Services, Iceland Sex Tours, Iceland Gilrs for Dating, Keflavik Asian Massage, Samantha Brown Iceland Vacation Pictures....

THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can see my Icelandic hits increasing already.

Gott kvöld

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Meaning of Life... Cellos???

I have discovered the meaning of life. It happened during the inauguration yesterday, yet it has nothing to do with politics.

I have seen it before, but I didn’t really understand its significance until yesterday.

It became even more powerful to me when I was forced to try to explain it in spoken words to Gail this morning.

YO-YO MA provided my epiphany yesterday. He is the cellist who performed with the quartet immediately before Obama took the oath of office. The sight of Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello was a vision of joy and perfection.

This morning Gail asked why I was so moved by it. The answer is:

Watching Yo-Yo Ma play cello was exactly like watching Big Brown run at the Preakness.

There are key moments in life where we get to see someone doing on a world stage what he was born to do. Yesterday, Yo-Yo Ma played cello before the largest audience of his life, and his face radiated the look of passion and joy that showed for that moment, he owned the world. His face said, “Regardless of what has come before…regardless of what the future holds…at this moment in time I am experiencing the performance of my life, and I am loving every minute of it.”

Loosely paraphrasing author Terry Davis, it is a glorious thing to watch another creature achieve perfection. For these rare moments allow mere humans to share the sight of one of our own, basking in joy as they do on a very big stage the one thing they were born to do. And our witness of their achieving perfection manages to pick us all up a little and propels us to a better place.

The meaning of life is achieving your moment of perfection that makes the entire world, if only for a blink, a better place to be.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Are You Ready To Soft Rock????

As my whiny-ass ranting in the comments area pointed out this week, everything I own has been trapped on the back of a couple of semi trucks since the second week of December. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it appears that Barack and Michelle will not be the only couple moving into a new sprawling estate this week.

We thought our stuff would only be on the truck for 5 days, but back in December the deal on our new house fell apart the day before closing, and so we had to go out and find a bigger and better home to buy while our stuff sits on a truck. By the way… I didn’t coat any of my cast iron equipment because it was only going to be 5 days on the semi… as the calendar clicks past 40 days of my stuff living on the back of a truck in Indianapolis, I have to assume my Unisaw, Jointer, Bandsaw, etc are now a lovely shade of red (we’ll see).

Luckily Gail and I are not living in a semi. I have been living with my parents since the middle of October, when I left Michigan to take the new job in my hometown. Gail and Peyton have been staying here since December 1st. Being a full blown adult with a family and moving back with Mom and Dad is interesting. It’s almost like Southfork around here (only without the cowboy hats and piles of Oil Money).

So to keep from losing my mind as I suffer woodworking withdrawal, I have embraced a new hobby. I have become a karaoke singer. (This is completely different than the Karaoke I experienced in Asia…) However, just like all of my hobbies and passions I have managed to Skiver-up karaoke, too.

You see, I do karaoke of INSTRUMENTAL songs. While others get up and belt out lyrics that sound like a lost calf bleating for its momma, I stand in front of crowds and “perform” during songs like "Axel F," Herb Alpert’s "Rise," and Chuck Mangione’s "Feels So Good." Needless to say, my karaoke gift is very, very special.

Still, there are some people who just don’t “get it” and I often face the torment of hecklers as I try to perform "The Theme from The Bridge On the River Kwai." It hurts. So I am thinking about eventually getting into the more traditional form of Karaoke singing… ya know… the kind where you actually sing. I don’t know if I have what it takes or not. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I suppose if it did work out I could eventually become a wedding singer. That would be pretty interesting. Can’t you just imagine what it would be like to hire Jeff Skiver to be your wedding singer???? I would gladly Skiver-up a wedding by going deep into the songbook and singing anything… regardless of the social stigma. Mark it down now, when I become a professional wedding singer, I will gladly sing ANYTHING, including the Top 10 songs you hardly ever hear sung at weddings:

1) "The Stroke" by Billy Squier
2) "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" by U2 (which, by the way, was a much bigger hit than their follow up, “Monday, Scabby Monday”)
3) "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benetar
4) "Father Figure" by George Michael
5) "Black Betty" by Ram Jam
6) "Love Hurts" by Nazareth
7) "Silent Night, Holy Night"
8) "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard
9) "I’m On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen
10) "Like a Virgin" by Madonna

Friday, January 16, 2009

Honey, Is Andrew's Easel Still in Our Bedroom?

Andrew Wyeth died today.

I suppose it is “nice” that he lived to be 91, but I am saddened by his passing.

For me it wasn’t “Christina’s World” or any of the paintings of Helga Testorf that endeared him to me. In the case of Andrew Wyeth's portfolio, I am just not going to be a deep thinker. Even though Andrew Wyeth may be my favorite American artist of all time, I don’t look at his work and attempt to church it up. I really don't care about the torment of Christina.

Instead, Andrew Wyeth spoke to me when I came across a painting that was painted in 1965 but could just as easily have been a photograph taken in my home on any given day since 1998. I refer to Master Bedroom.

The beauty of art is that it is personal. Some see a sleeping dog. Many could not care less and would relegate this painting to flea market campiness. But this painting touches my soul, and it doesn't matter to me if you like it or not.

Today America lost an amazing artist.

The Airbus 320... Now with Cockpit Big Enough for the Biggest Balls on the Planet

Autonomous power is seldom seen in America. Most things fall under committees. Checks and balances necessitate one group confirming (either approving or vetoing) the decisions of another. My woodworking is one of the few autonomous things left in our nation.

In my studio, I am the king. In my shop, I am the Lord.

Last night I discussed the power of airline pilots with my wife. I told how two weeks ago a couple of families were removed from a flight because the pilot didn’t like what they were talking about. That was it… game over… no discussion…. the decision of the pilot was law on that flight, and those folks were escorted off.

Likewise yesterday when Captain Chesley Sullenberger III, apparently faced the failure of both engines of his Airbus 320, he made the autonomous decision to put the plane into the Hudson River. There was no blue ribbon task force assembled. There were no focus groups consulted. Captain Sullenberger observed his situation, processed his alternatives, and had the cojones to follow the course he deemed appropriate. When I see that everyone walked away, I sit in judgment believing Captain Sullenberger did the right thing.

Leadership isn’t about pleasing people. Leadership is doing what has to be done, at the moment it needs to be done, and accepting responsibility for the decisions you make.

It’s easy to be a leader in my shop. The Monday morning quarterbacking from my dog Peyton isn’t all that nasty. It is a far more difficult position to be the leader of 150 folks on a plane. It is an unfairly brutal job to have the courage to lead 304 million Americans.

Regardless of the race, sex, or political affiliation of the person who sits in the Oval Office, he (and eventually she) deserves the respect of US citizens for having to call the ball daily on decisions that would make most of us curl up in a fetal position and cry for our Mommies.

Friday, January 2, 2009

That Which You Manifest is Before You

I seemed to have closed out the year with dog stories. Yet, I neglected to tell you about the dog that symbolizes the most recent changes in my life. No matter how much I love Peyton and Simon… regardless of the memories that Marley stirs in me… the dog that has most recently reminded me of the beauty of life is a dog named Enzo.

I’ve told you before that Amazon is spooky. As well as I thought Tivo knew me based upon the input of the up and down thumbs I provided, I have to admit that seems to have an even more keen insight into who I really am.

A few months back I was busy purchasing Sir Jackie Stewart’s autobiography at Amazon, when they tossed out a little blurb that went something like this: “Hey!!!!!!!! Yeah, you, Jeff!!!!!!!!!! Hey, Dogboy!!!!!!!!! We have a book you need to look at. Really. If you are truly the dog lover you say you are, and if you are the Walter Middy Formula 1 racer you think you are… then you need to click on the purchase button for The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.”

Two days later, a dog named Enzo started changing my life.

Let me verify for everyone that I realize I am blessed. It seems like God’s favor has been pelting me from on high since the moment of my birth.

Still, there are principles that are laid out in Garth Stein’s piece of fiction that are the very things I have used to live my life. Specifically, I am the human embodiment of Stein’s seminal phrase from this book, “That which you manifest is before you.”

Am I in the right place at the right time…sometimes.

Am I blessed with a superior education…US News and World Report says so.

Mainly, I understand that I am responsible for my own life. Like everyone, since my earliest moments of childhood, I have encountered the naysayers who are there to tell me what I cannot do. These are the same folks who are always too quick to hit the brakes, run for the storm shelter, or cry to the referees. My vision of life is different.

That which I manifest is before me.

In 1996, I left Indiana and headed for Michigan to design car parts. Now, I am sad that the auto industry is falling apart. However, this summer I chose to take responsibility for my life and take control of my destiny.

But Jeff, you’re an automotive engineer. Your degree is Mechanical Engineering. There is no way you can go into consumer electronics!!!!!!!!! Really? Enzo says, “That which you manifest is before you.”

“You were downsized, Jeff. You need to try to hang on and avoid foreclosure and wait for the government to bail you out…” Really? Perhaps I could use this opportunity to get away from a job that was rotting my soul and find something that is more rewarding to my mind, my body, and my balance sheet.

Jeff, you can’t just become a writer. You have to struggle and face rejection. Really? What if I find a magazine that has a need and find a way to fit my quirky personality into that slot?

It seems like every time we find someone telling us that they are experiencing success, their reason for talking is to sell us a scam. “Hey, everybody…look at all of the money I made in real estate. Pay me $50 and I’ll share those secrets with you.” So, friends, here is what I leave you with today (and it is not a commercial for “my system”).

I recognize the world is in a recession. Like everyone, I wish I had greater assurance that my job would always be here. However, the one thing I know is that I control my own destiny, and since I am in control… I can make my life ANYTHING I want it to be.

The other racing truth that Garth Stein shares is: “The car goes where the eyes go.” Let my 2008 be proof that our lives go where our visions are focused. Dream Big, but don’t stop at dreaming. With your dream in place, create a plan to get there. And develop the mindset that opportunities for success are ALWAYS present. Even if the world starts burning around you, it can serve as your notice that you need to be supplying the world with fire fighting equipment.

The Art of Racing in the Rain reminds us that a wet racetrack separates the field. Rain causes some to complain about the conditions. Rain makes others fight the car in a death-gripped panic. Yet, rain also permits others to move ahead, because they are prepared to deal with everything the world throws at them. 2008 rained on us all. Many spun out. Many slowed to a crawl. As a testament to Enzo, I made some great passes as I moved up the field on the rain-soaked 2008 track.

2009 begins with the rain still falling. Find the life you long for and choose to make it happen. “That which you manifest is before you.”