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).