Monday, December 14, 2009

disappointed and disgusted

Duped. Betrayed. Disappointed. Disgusted. All these are how I feel when the name Tiger is now mentioned. I have been a great admirer of his talent and success on the golf course and naively believed that he brought the same skill, discipline, and honesty to his private life. His public image is now shown to be a sham, a product of clever marketing. His private life is revealed to be a shambles, a journey through debauchery and dishonesty. His cultivated image of loving husband and father is one of the great marketing successes of our time. But what a lie. I ask myself how can an athlete who is so disciplined on the course be so undisciplined away from the course. Apparently ready and willing to screw anyone who moves within reach of his dick, he has shown himself to be the epitome of hypocrisy. He must have felt that he would never be caught, probably believing that because he was so successful on the golf course, that no one would care what he did away from the course. He is just another example of the pro athlete who feels entitled to behave beyond the rules of decent behavior simply because he is an athlete/celebrity with a different set of rules than the rest of us. And while it seems that the sort of bimbo he was involved with is readily available to his kind, that doesn’t excuse him from participation. Just because the temptation is there does not mean you have to succumb to it. I used to look forward to seeing him play whenever he was in a tournament, knowing I would see amazing shots being made with remarkable skill. Now I don’t want to see him play anymore. I just want him to go away.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

shop update

There are quite a few pieces that have come out of workshop since I last updated. Rather than trying to show them all here, it would be better to click on "gallery" on the sidebar and see everything in one place. Or you can click on "my flickr", also on the sidebar, and select the turnings and sculpture sets. Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I've always prided myself on being very careful and aware when working with the tools in my shop. Power saws and routers and sanders require a concentration that is unwavering if the operator is going to work safely and avoid injury. Yesterday I disobeyed that rule and now I'm paying for my lack of concentration.

I was using the router mounted on a router table -as I have many times before- to cut a dado in a piece of zebrawood. I was in a hurry and that should have thrown up a red flag for me. Never do anything with power tools if you are in a hurry. Shortcuts create bad cuts in both the wood and any fingers that get in the way. Normally I use push sticks and jigs that help to make the particular operation as safe and efficient as possible. But for some reason I must have felt invincible and overly sure of my ability to control the material and the cutter because I stupidly used just my fingers to hold the wood in place and then advance it through the router.

I don't know exactly what happened or how it happened because it happened to quickly for me to react. Somehow two of my fingers slipped into the path of the router bit and the result is what you can readily imagine. A considerable chunk of my right index finger was ripped open and a smaller rip was made in my middle finger faster than you can say "oops". Copius amounts of blood drippings made a trail from basement workshop to upstairs kitchen. I managed to fold the skin back into place and applied lots of pressure to stop the bleeding long enough to get a compression bandage in place. I felt secure enough with my firstaid efforts to refuse a trip to the hospital.

But the wound is still bleeding a bit today and will probably take awhile longer to stop. It is nearly impossible to avoid moving the finger and causing the wound to reopen and start bleeding again. It is all very annoying. Just typing this has caused more bloodshed. Remarkably enough there is no pain involved so far. I am going to have to immobilize the finger for a day or so to get the bleeding to stop completely. What a hassle. And all because I was in a hurry and got careless.

Maybe the worst part of all this is that I have to listen to Mary"s lectures and her insistence that I stay out of the workshop forever. Geez, it's not like I cut the finger off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

just a bit early

Every year it seems the xmas season ( notice I don’t Christianize the word) begins a bit earlier than the previous year. It is not at all unusual to find xmas decorations in the big retail stores crowding out the Halloween pumpkins and Thanksgiving turkeys by mid October. Here at home I have always held out until after Thanksgiving to put up our xmas decorations outside and inside, not only on principle but also so that we don’t get sick of looking at the glitz and glimmer and twinkling before the day we are supposed to be celebrating itself arrives.

So it is with a sense of shame (just a tiny bit) that I admit to jumping the gun on my own self imposed timeline for decorating the old homestead. The wreaths are hanging in the usual doors and windows, the garlands are wound around the railings and the lights are festooned on the trees and garlands. All that was accomplished yesterday, a beautiful sunshiny warm 60 degree day with hardly an inkling of the impending winter in the air. It was simply too nice a day to not to be outside doing something. So since the season is nearly upon us, I rook advantage of the choice weather and violated my own rule.

I make myself feel a little better about my early efforts by insisting that none of the lights get turned on until after Thanksgiving. So I have not completely gone over to the dark side. Please don’t think less of me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

football fever

I am a die hard Packers fan from way back. I grew up with the champion teams of the sixties and suffered through the mediocre teams of the 70’s and 80’s. The 90’s with Favre at quarterback reignited a passion for the team and were as exciting as it gets. The last few years with great expectations that were rarely met were both exciting and aggravating.

And this season has been an exercise in frustration given the great preseason and then the lousy play that was the first 8 games. Last week’s loss to the pathetic Bucs in Tampa Bay gave rise to the anger that comes from knowing the team is better than they were playing. I admit I jumped on the get-rid-of-the-coach bandwagon last week after that embarrassing loss.

Anticipation of today’s game against the Cowboys was pretty much restricted to hoping the Packers would put forth a respectable showing and keep the score under blowout status. I fully expected the Pack to lose by at least two touchdowns while showing at least some basic competence at the game. I hoped only that they would show some progress in correcting the penalty and sack problems that have plagued them every game this season.
I prayed that the O line would somehow figure out a way to keep Rogers upright and still breathing at the end of the game. I begged the football gods to show the D line the way to get to Romo and plant his ass on the sacred tundra of Lambeau. And I was not shy about begging for a special teams rebirth as a professional unit.

Well, my begging was not ignored. My beseeching of the football gods apparently worked. The team the Packers put on the field today was the near opposite of the team we’ve been seeing up until now. The defense played like an all pro team, pitching a near shutout. The offense came alive at the right times getting first downs when they were desperately needed. The special teams played as though they were special, not allowing the big play that has hurt them so in the past few games. And when they got into scoring position, the Pack scored.

The only bad thing about today’s excellent play is that it raises expectations for a repeat performance every game until the super bowl trophy is again back where it belongs. Unreasonable expectations? Not if you’re a Packers fan from way back.

Monday, November 09, 2009

another tragedy

It has taken a few days to absorb the senseless violence of last week’s murderous rampage at Ft. Hood. I’m not sure I will ever really understand how such a thing can happen.

What possible rational can justify such a heinous act. What twisted logic allows a man to calmly approach his fellow soldiers and start shooting at them with deadly intent?

I am not yet inured, and hope I never will be, to these acts of violence perpetrated by crazies who feel it acceptable to act out their thoughts of revenge against a society they feel has wronged them somehow. Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Ft. Hood will forever be linked to the violent acts that bear their names. The name of the place where the next slaughter happens (and be sure that it will happen again) will join that list of tragic sites, adding to our collective consciousness that there is no longer any place that is truly safe.

I sincerely hope that we don’t ever become so accustomed to such horrible acts that we can easily shrug them off and go about our daily routines with only a passing notice. Outrage should always be our first reaction, and then grief for the victims and then grief for another deadly blow to our sense of humanity.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

shop update

Time to get caught up with the shop output. I continue to work almost exclusively on the lathe, trying to become more and more competent and comfortable with it. I've tried a variety of techniques to familiarize myself with the many different possibilities of lathe work. It is an ongoing learning process that I find exciting and fulfilling.

This walnut bowl is 4.5" diameter and 4" deep. The slanted rim makes the interior more visible and accessible.

This is a simple little bowl made of maple with a bubinga stripe. It is about 6" diameter and 1" deep. It is rather elegant in its simplicity.

These are only a small example of the latest pieces to come out of the shop. If you want to see more, click on the "gallery" link in the side bar. I will post more here soon as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

twin seasons

It’s been a dreary week. Cold wet and windy. Not a nice Autumn so far.
Have you ever noticed that this season is the only one with two names? Autumn and Fall. That’s probably because the season has a split personality.

I think of Autumn as embodying all the best of the season. Warm sunshiney days with gentile breezes rustling the brilliantly colored leaves. Pumpkins decorating front porches. Corn stalks gathered in bunches around lightposts. Autumn is a season of celebrating the harvest and slowly shutting down our outdoor activities in preparation for the coming Winter.

Fall, on the other hand is the evil twin. Temperatures fall precipitously off the cliff of Summer’s plateau. The nasty winds tear the turning leaves from their branches with wrenching force. The cold rains mat those leaves on the ground, smothering whatever lies beneath them. The flowers wilt and die from the too early frost. The days get shorter and shorter forcing us inside before we really want to be. Every now and then, Fall will shock us with a snow fall that is a harsh reminder to get the lawnmowers put away and the snowblowers gassed up.

With Autumn comes the optimistic days of Indian summer. Fall hammers us with the harsh, pessimistic realities of the northern winds.

Is it Summer yet?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

workshop output

I haven't been sitting idle despite the fact that I have been negligent in posting here lately. I just seem to be too busy creating sawdust to take the time to keep caught up here. I have pictures to prove that I have been busy.

I've been doing bottles lately, using glued-up blanks made from the scraps of wood that are leftover from other projects. I hate wasting all those pieces that accumulate so I make blocks that then can be turned into something. In this case , bottles.

This bottle is capped with maple. I stands about 8" high and is made from maple and bubinga.

This piece is made from walnut with maple stripes. It is also about 8" high.

This 6" bottle is made from a variety of wood pieces slavaged from the scrap pile. It shows that there is always something that can be done with the leftovers besides trashing them.

There are quite a few more pieces coming out of the workshop. I will eventually get around to sharing them here, but if you can't wait, then click on "gallery" in the sidebar to get an up to date look at what I've been doing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

wood lust

As a woodworker I am constantly searching for materials to feed my fetish. Lumber can be quite expensive, especially the more exotic woods. Buying from a typical lumber yard or big box store is one way to keep the shop stocked, but the choices are usually somewhat limited to the finished nominal sizes if dimension lumber. And you won’t find any exotics or rough and unmilled pieces in the typical lumber sources.

Most retail lumber sources—think Menards, Home Depot and Lowe’s—will have the usual most commonly used finished woods like oak, maple, walnut, and pine in the usual most commonly used dimensions. I use a lot of that type of lumber and find those sources convenient if somewhat limited. I have found it a bit frustrating now that I have begun woodturning that I can’t easily find big chunks of rough lumber that I need to turn some of the projects I have in mind. Glueing up turning blanks from dimension lumber is one way to go, and I have done a lot of that with excellent results. But as a woodturner I crave logs and big chunks of unmilled and unfinished slabs of different kinds of woods.

I have begun paying close attention to work sites where trees are being felled to clear the land for building. While others may search out those locations as a source for firewood, I seek them as a source for the raw materials I need for my lathe. I have even bought a chainsaw so that I can more readily handle and prepare logs that need to be cut into manageable turning blanks. But cruising the streets searching for raw materials is hardly a convenient or expeditious way to spend my time.

So it was with great excitement that I recently found a place that could provide just the sort of lumber that I craved. It is a tree trimming and removal business that has an enlightened approach to its mission. Dedicated to using the entire tree in the most useful and nonwasteful way, this company has stockpiled slabs and logs of oak, maple, walnut, birch, and other woods that furniture makers, artists, and woodturners lust after. While some parts of the trees that get cut down are turned into mulch and firewood, a very large proportion of the tree is saved and rough cut into huge planks and short log sections that are then properly dried to provide the kind of working material that we woodworkers crave. And the price is right.

I will use this source a lot as I continue my woodworking efforts. I will gladly buy from Green Man because I like the way it strives to use the whole tree with little or no waste. As long as they are willing to put forth the effort I will do my part to help them stay in business.

Now, back to the workshop and a gorgeous chunk of ambrosia maple on the lathe

Monday, September 07, 2009

they weren't kidding

Some friends invited us for dinner this evening. Not unusual as far as invitations go. The reason for the invitation was my expressed skepticism about their purported method of cooking chicken. They had something to prove.

Awhile back--I forget the circumstance--the conversation at another getogether happened to hit on their method of grilling a whole chicken on the grill. They claimed straightfaced that they would prop the whole chicken on end and stuff a beer can up the chickens butt and cook the chicken with said beer can--full of course with beer--in place. I, of course, figured they were blowing smoke up my butt by making such a claim and so I dared them to prove it.

And so they did. I took pictures just in case there are skeptics like me who need hard photographic evidence to belive it.

Apparently there is a whole book devoted to the cooking of chickens and other foodstuffs with a beer can being central to the success of the process. Who knew? I'm not only convinced that it is possible, but quite pleased with the result.

Oh yeah, the chicken was delicious.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

state fair

What could be more American than a state fair. They even made a musical about it. We had our share of the all-American activity today and loved every minute of it.

It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the fair, but for some reason today just seemed like the perfect day to renew our relationship with it. Clear skies and temps in the 70’s meant a perfect summer day for fair going. The fact that my meds have been working so much better encouraged me to give it a try, knowing that I would have the energy to make a day of it.

The state fair is at once both exciting and tacky, with smells of cotton candy and charcoal barbecues, incense and manure all mixing in the sunshine. The sounds of bands and singers, pitchmen and livestock all stirred together is a unique blend not found anywhere else. The exposition center offered fairgoers every imaginable trinket, doodad, and worthless gizmo conceived by man along with a few actually useful objects at amazing prices only for the lucky fairgoer. Such deals for stuff you never knew you needed. The pitchmen with their practiced spiels and stale jokes tried shamelessly to fleece you out of the few bucks in your pocket. Great entertainment as long as you kept your wallet secured in your back pocket out of easy reach. But, man, I wanted that set of knives that could carve through steel and still stay sharp enough to skin a peach.

And where else can city slickers like us get close enough to a cow or a pig or a horse or a sheep to touch them and get a close-up whiff of their essence. We came away from the livestock barns with a far greater appreciation for those t-bones and hams that are stacked in the supermarket.

We watched a judging of some cows in the livestock pavilion and couldn’t figure out what the judge could see that was different among them. I think they were Black Angus cows (only because they were all black). He seemed to think that there was a considerable difference when it came to withers and flanks and shapes of their ribs. All I kept looking for were ribeyes and sirloins and decided that a cow that big would fill a couple freezers and keep us in protein for a long time.

When we visited the swine barn we expected to be overwhelmed by nasty piggy smells, but were pleasantly surprised at the clean air. Pigs don’t smell. Who knew? They do make rather disgusting sounds, though. Again we watched a group of pigs being judged by a guy who could see amazing differences among them, even though they all looked exactly alike to my untrained eye. Somehow he was able to select the best one to be sent off to the butcher shop. Not a contest you necessarily want to win if you’re a pig.

After having our fill of critters (we also cruised through the sheep barn) we needed to get off our feet for a rest, so we sought out music venue where we could enjoy some music while resting. We wandered into an area that promised some Blues, although the band was not on stage just then. But I’m glad we waited for them to start playing again. I don’t know the name of the band, but they were smokin. We sat there for a long time listening and left reluctantly when the long day finally caught up to us. There was only one more thing left to do to make our fair visit complete.

This being the Wisconsin state fair, a visit to the dairy pavilion is a requirement that might actually be mandated by law. You’ve never seen so much cheese in your life. Mountains of it in all the different colors and flavors that cheese can come in. Milk everywhere. And the greatest treat of them all---the world renowned Wisconsin State Fair creampuff. Any visit to the fair is incomplete without a creampuff getting slobbered all over your face. Licking your fingers is the accepted method of cleaning up. I really think they should give away those creampuffs and just charge for napkins. They’d make a fortune.

So having participated in the required creampuff ritual, our blood sugar dangerously raised, we happily made our way out of the fairgrounds after one of the best summer days we’ve had in along time. I can’t wait until next year’s fair. I’m there.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Here it is, August already, and I feel like my summer is just a week old. I feel like I lost a couple months with trying to find the right combination of drugs to combat my Parkinsons symptoms. Back in April my doctor and I decided to try a different regimen since what I was doing was leaving me without any comfortable control over my daily life. The drugs just weren’t working anymore.

I have a natural disinclination to take drugs if I feel that I can control whatever ails me with a healthy lifestyle--eating properly and getting enough exercise. But sometimes that just doesn’t work and I have to rely on medication to abate the problem. Parkinsons Disease is one of those problems that requires some drugs to control the symptoms and keep me functioning at a level that is near normal. For some reason, the drugs I was taking gradually stopped being effective enough to allow that freedom from symptoms. So we tried a different approach. That new approach didn’t work either, resulting in the loss of my physical freedom for a couple months.

Of course the worst time to be hampered by physical dysfunction is during the summer months when all those wonderful outside activities are there for your enjoyment. Despite the strong desire to ride my bike and play golf, I simply wasn’t up to it physically. At the lake, I never even got close to my kayak. Cutting the grass was a major accomplishment. A long afternoon nap became a necessity. I even got to the point where I was reluctant to drive since I didn’t feel I had proper control over my muscle reactions.

A couple weeks ago I again had an appointment with my doctor to try to tweak my drug regimen into a workable combination. I am happy to say that we were successful this time. Since starting the current dosages of my several meds I have regained all that lost ground. I ride my bike again. I played 18 holes of golf three days in a row. I kayaked around the lake. I have as new energy that allows me to skip the afternoon nap. I am back in control. I just wish summer was just beginning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

getting caught up

I’ve been finding it difficult to find the time to post here on any kind of regular basis. There always seems to be too many other things to do first. Of course, being at the lake most of the time during the summer where we have no convenient internet service available (the local library is ground zero for the internet) makes keeping up all that much more of an effort. We stay at the cottage for ten days or so, get home for maybe three days to collect the mail (bills still have to be paid), do the laundry, cut the grass, and take care of various other mundane doings that crop up, and then head back to the lake for another extended stay. Somehow posting to this blog gets shunted aside more often than not.

But this time home I did have time to take some pictures of recent work that I managed to complete along the way, and get them posted over at or click on "gallery" in the sidebar. So if you feel so inclined, go over there to take a look.

During the summer I get precious little time to spend in my workshop and I miss that a lot. But on these beautiful summer days I feel guilty about being down in the shop instead of outside enjoying the weather. Maybe I will have to move the shop out to the garage, or better yet, move it all up to the cottage so that I can have the best of all possible worlds. Then again, maybe I should just cut the whining.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

summer so far

It’s been awhile since I last visited this venue. It seems that circumstances and inclination have prevented my regular posting here. That, and the advent of summer, when the outdoors calls, have taken me away.

As the fourth of July approaches, we find the summer rapidly slipping away. It seems as though it has just started and already we are counting the warm days that are left. Today it feels more like September with fall like temps in the 60’s and cloudy skies giving the lie to the term summer. Although just a few days ago we suffered through a bout of stifling heat and humidity, those days are quickly forgotten with each shift of the wind.

Here at the lake I know that summer can’t have progressed too far since I have yet to get on my bicycle for a meaningful ride or taken the kayak out of the boathouse for a leasurely paddle along the shoreline looking for the elusive heron who struts in the shallows. We’ve had only one campfire in the underused firepit and stargazed late into the evening on only one clear night. I’ve even managed to avoid the golf course with startling regularity, when in past summers I would have played 3-4 times a week. It seems that everything is in slow motion these days, getting started with halting steps much like the Parkinsons that rules my days.

At least we have a visit from our daughter next week to look forward to. We haven’t seen her in a year, so those few days will be precious memory builders for the next year until we can enjoy each other in person once again. With her living in Oakland it isn’t like we can just hop in the car and drive across town for lunch. So these many months of separation are endured knowing that we’ll reconnect again if we are patient.

Having spent the majority of our days since early June here at the lake, I have sacrificed precious time in my workshop at home. I miss those creative hours amidst the sawdust and tools. I feel somehow diminished for not being able to manipulate a chunk of wood into something useful, evocative and sometimes beautiful. That corner of my brain is getting too much rest. I need a workshop fix soon. Before the reality of summer away from home and workshop set in, I did manage to finish several small projects in the shop. I will have pictures to share one of these days when circumstances allow.

Until then, summer still has a few days left to get on track. Of course, just as soon as I get a feel for the season, it will be time to contemplate the use of the snowblower. Where does the time go………

Thursday, May 28, 2009

new stuff

For the past three months I have been diligently working at learning the skills needed to do creditable work on the lathe. There is a lot to learn and practice. Between attending a class and seeing a tool demonstration and reading books and watching podcasts, I have managed to get a lot of information that has made the learning process enjoyable and fruitful.

Here are pictures of some of the latest finished projects that have spun from the lathe.

Planning this plate was more difficult than the actual turning. It is made of maple and walnut and is 10" diameter.

This bowl is made of maple, walnut, oak, and purpleheart. It is 6" diameter and 2.75" deep.

I like the more substantial sides to this bowl rather than the typical very thin walls that seem to be the standard for turned bowls.

I like to make these little twig vases as a way to use the leftover scraps of wood that accumulate around the shop. This one is made of maple and walnut and is 3" high.

This little covered box is made of maple, walnut, oak, and purpleheart. It is 4.25" high.

I currently have several more pieces in various stages of completion in the works. I do have a couple sculpture projects that don't involve the lathe. So much to do, so little time. What a wonderful dilemma.

what's going on

I'm having trouble with my blog. It seems photobucket, whoever that is, has usurped my blog and made it inactive. It says my link has been inactive for 90 days. What link? What the hell is going on.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

unlucky, but lucky

This seems to be our year for flat tires. Back in January we came out of the art museum to find the right rear tire on the truck flatter than the proverbial pancake. While we had to wait nearly an hour for AAA to respond, at least we weren't stranded on the road or hurt. A bit of a nusciense, but overall not too big a deal. Then last mnth I took the Accord into othe dealer for an oil change and the mechanic, on inspecting the tires, found one of them had a two inch nail imbedded in the tread. Again we were fortunate that we weren't driving when the tire went flat, possibly causing all sorts of mayhem. And now today we were driving home from the cottage, 125 miles with no problem. Or maybe I should say 124 1/2 miles with no problem because as soon as I got out of the van in the garage I heard the unmistakeable hissing sound of a tire losing air. Sure enough the left rear tire was going flat. Again, how lucky were we to have made it all the way home into the garage before getting that flat tire? While all those flats are somewhat unlucky, we were, in each instance, exceptionally lucky to have been stopped and safe when they occurred. The tire gods may be toying with us, but at least they don't seem to be malevolent about their toying.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

backyard birds

We've been fortunate this Spring to have a constant nature show playing out in our backyard. A pair of Cardinals chose to nest in one of the bushes that border the deck. Through our kitchen window we can see them coming and going, darting in and out of that bush while they first built their nest and then worked nonstop to feed the babies in that nest. Of course anytime we would be on the deck they would do their best to distract us from that bush and keep us away from the chicks. Their constant chattering and swooping from tree branch to tree branch was meant to get our attention on them and away from their babies. And for the most part it worked. Who can resist watching a darting flash of brilliant red bird shwoing off in the sunshine? We didn't take their scolding personally, but respected their wishes by staying away from peering into the dense convines of the bush. We haven't been able to actually see the inside of the nest to count the chicks there, but can only go by the hungry cries constantly streaming from inside to be certain that they are there. The bright red male bird is always easy to spot in his coming and going, but the duller colored female is more shy and hard to see. Natures way of giving that little added protection to the nest. Once the chicks are older and find their wings, I suppose the nest will be abandoned and the show will end. We are hoping that the pair of Cardinals willl return next Spring to liven up our backyard again.
I managed to get a few pictures of them over the past few days as they flitted from tree to tree, but could never get them as they entered or left the bush where the nest is hidden. They are just too careful and quick to allow me near enough.

The elusive female.

We will miss them and their frantic activity when they are gone. We are hoping to see them again next Spring when the cycle starts all over.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

communication downfall

It has become more and more disconcerting lately to find that our collective attention span has dwindled to the point that if you can’t say it in 140 characters or less, you won’t get any attention at all. Is blogging dead? Has Twitter killed off the blog as a means of connecting to the world or has it merely maimed it so that it is on its death bed awaiting the final gasp for relevant breath?

Many of the bloggers that I regularly followed have stopped communicating via the blog. They may have succumbed to the allure of the tweet, but I don’t know that for certain. It just seems that people who once used their blogs to set down their ideas, to tell the world of the significant events in their lives, or who just had something to get off their chests have migrated away to the land of the overly succinct. Or perhaps they have stopped blogging simply because they find their efforts at such communication ignored in favor of the next big thing.

I have to admit to coming under the sway of Twitter, much like those people I’m lamenting. Yes, I tweet. There I said it. But I feel so guilty doing it. I have neglected my blog in recent weeks, thinking that the occasional tweet would fulfill my obligation to stay in touch. But every time I scratch out a single one line thought I feel guilty for having left out the more interesting parts. I feel as though my entire life is being abbreviated into quick oneliners, lacking the substance that makes me whole. Others seem to get around the limited number of letters by using multiple tweets about the same subject. So many tweets are followed by second and third and fourth or more tweets on the same subject from the same person that it seems that a more coherent blog post would serve them better. What’s the point of limiting your twittering to 140 characters when you simply follow each tweet with another and then another. First 140, then 280, and then 420, and on to 560 characters, and before you know it you have written a paragraph that has been divided into separate thoughts that would make more sense if the effort was made to put them together in one place. What is the advantage to multiple tweets then?

I can’t help feeling that many who use Twitter as their primary means of connecting to the world are just as dissatisfied with the process. They have been lured into the process by their peers who insist on including them.
I fear we are becoming less communicative with each other while trying to keep up the technological blabbing of nonsense. The vision of people walking down the street with thumbs nimbly traversing their phone keys, pecking out a non-communication to someone who doesn’t care, conjures up a distopian society of people unable to connect with others face to face. While you were pecking at those keys you failed to notice those around you who would welcome a brief smile or a nod of the head or even, God forbid, a verbalized hello. Has our species “progressed” so far that the only way to interact with each other is through a haze of ciberwaves? I hope we aren’t raising a next generation of entranced cyberzombies unable to interact on a face to face basis without the aid of iPhones and iPods, Will they be able to construct a coherent declarative sentence without weird abbreviations? Will they even be able to read more than a sentence or two at once without losing their concentration. Tweet if you must, but only as a last resort. Our intellectual future wellbeing is at stake.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

wall sculpture

This wall sculpture is based on Picasso's "The Dream" from 1932. I thought it lent itself to an interpretation in wood. I made it from a variety of woods and veneers. It is 24" x 28".

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

life's lessons

I don’t claim to be wise. Or even particularly knowledgeable. I don’t have all the answers to all, or even any, of life’s questions. But I do have a modest share of common sense. And over my 61 years I think I have arrived at a few simple conclusions and guidelines to achieving a successful and mostly happy and, certainly, a contented life.

Some simple measures for good health and reasonable longevity, and thus avoiding the burdensome weight of dependence on others, are to stay away from smoking, drinking, and the use of drugs. Eat responsibly by avoiding fatty foods and chemically enhanced manufactured foods, and consume a good share of wholesome fruits and vegetables, grains and fish. Leave something on your plate and forget dessert.

Seek holistic medical care rather than the panacea of costly and often ineffective pharmaceuticals. Exercise everyday as a way of not just maintaining bodily health, but also to reduce stress and enhance your mental outlook.

Seek work. Work hard. Do more than expected. Be efficient and look for ways to make your work more efficient. Don’t complain. Be a team player and advance the team’s goals rather than your own. You will find that you will be promoted, even put in charge. Stay humble. The descent is always faster than the rise.

No matter how gifted, intelligent, creative, erudite and special you think you are, admit that there is always someone better than you.

Be attentive to your personal grooming. Shave, bathe, and wear clean clothes. Try to stay stylish so as to appear confident and up to date in all things.

Be cheerful. Have a ready smile for all you encounter no matter their station in life. Laugh a lot. Especially at yourself.

Suffer in silence. Don’t whine or seek sympathy.

Save. Invest conservatively. Don’t gamble. Live within or below your means and you will never want for anything essential.

Read and study things of substance. Satisfy your curiosity. Constantly seek to acquire new skills.

Volunteer when you can and occasionally when you should despite the apparent hardship.

Share your toys, your tools, your expertise. Always leave some for the next guy. Give more than you take.

Remember that opinions are the currency of the self -important, worthless until sought. Save yours for another day.

Find a partner, a husband or wife, who loves you and whom you love who shares your outlook and values. Realize that that partner is truly your better half.

Teach your children the values you treasure. Teach by example not by preaching. And when the time comes to let them go, allow your children the freedom to find their way just as you did.

If you do these things, or at least make the attempt, you will own your life and be remembered for that ownership.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

once again

I love these beautiful spring days when the temperature hovers around 70 in the newly brightened sunshine. You can almost see the buds popping on all the trees, imagining them making popcorn sounds as they appear. The shrubs all have that faint greenish tinge that shimmers in the sunshine. The little reddish shoots of the Peonies seem so fragile and tender in their first tentative appearance, but the Daylillies are far more aggressive, standing several inches high already. With a little rain over the next few days the grass will need its first cutting and the Hostas should poke through the mulch. The overall fecund smell of the season promises an overall greening of the landscape before we even realize it’s happening. The Mourning Doves have returned to their nesting place in the Barberry and a pair of cardinals are industriously building a nest in the evergreen on the side of the deck.

This past week we ventured north to the lake cottage to get that place opened for the coming warm season. We had driven there about six weeks ago just to check on the place and had to don boots and wield snow shovels just to get into the driveway where a good foot of snow still lingered. That was hard to recall this week with the grass greening up and the lake shimmering iceless. It seemed too soon to hear the raucous full-throated croaking frogs in the wetland across the road, but they were already celebrating spring with their joyous chorus. The ducks had returned as well and were busy sticking their tail feathers in the air as they dove for goodies beneath the surface. The resident otter swam by in the early evening on his way to reinhabiting his hidden lair somewhere along the shoreline.

Everything seems to be in order one more time. No matter what the world is experiencing, springtime is inevitable and heartening in its constancy from year to year. Whatever else seems to be garnering our attention, you can’t help but feel hope in the yearly renewal that is Spring.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

latest work

I finally have a few things to show for all my practice on the new lathe I've been learning to use for the past month. I've done many more pieces than these, but I like these well enough to keep. I'm sure that as I keep working at it I will have many more keepers.
This is a twig vase made from oak and purpleheart. It is 7" high.

This is a little twig pot that is made of maple and padauk. It is 3.5" high

Another twig vase that is maple and padauk. This one is 5" high.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

the intinerant vet

As I’ve noted here in the past, my daughter the veterinarian and PhD aspirant, frequently travels to Namibia, Africa to continue research that involves chasing zebras around the African plains. Her typical stay there is usually around 6 weeks, during which she lives and works at a game park and lab in Etosha. Once there, the work is long and tiring. But even those long days pale in comparison to the lengthy journey it takes to get there in the first place. Traveling from her home in Oakland and her lab at Berkeley to her final destination in Etosha, Namibia typically takes the better part of three days on various flights and then hours of ground travel across Namibia.

That she is able to maintain a sense of humor about the arduous travel it takes to get her there is remarkable I think. This time around she is flying through Frankfurt and then to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then to Windhoek, Namibia before riding for 5 or so hours across Namibia to Etosha. She is an astute observer of all around her and isn’t shy about sharing her observations. Following are two of her emails from the past couple days while she makes her way to the land of zebras. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Tuesday, April 7

Things I learned (or was reminded of) in the last 12 hours:

There is a Hells Angels chapter in Luxembourg, and it may be populated by scary Germanic-unhinged type folk, if the fellow on the plane wearing his vest was any indication.

One should never eat breaded fried "chicken" pieces in spicy brown sauce if it's offered on a plane.

Children's voices really carry.

United is really cutting corners now. No toothbrush, no socks, and only one freaking movie that starts when they tell you it's going to start (unlike all the international carriers that give you a choice of 12-40 movies that you can start and stop at any time).

This recession is nice in that it means that fewer people are flying, which in turn means that there are more open seats next to me, which in turn means that I can attempt to sleep lying down by squinching into a ball over 2.5 seats.

The wireless in Frankfurt airport is sometimes free, and sometimes not. Or maybe I hallucinated the free bit.

My husband is always in meetings whenever I am online, and is thus unable to chat with me.

The chair-benches in the Frankfurt airport are surprisingly comfortable for napping. A bank of three chairs does nicely.

Cups of hot water are not free.

I could be on a plane to Tehran right now, if I had heeded the frantic last-minute call of the flight attendant who woke me up to try to get me on that plane.

The Frankfurt airport apparently completely runs on hydrogen and solar power and on the dreams of German children, as I can't find a single outlet in which to plug my laptop.

The cleaning crew here rides bikes around the airport, and has a jolly good time doing so.

Germans are not a friendly people, and do not suffer fools gladly. They think that most people are fools.

The German language is silly, because I cannot understand it.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009
More things I have learned (or rediscovered):

The food on South African Airways is SO much better than that on United. Ditto for the service, the movies, the drinks, the bathrooms, the socks, and the toothbrushes.

Four year olds should not stay awake all night having a crying fit like a newborn.

The heavier your backpack, the longer you will have to keep it on your shoulders as you stand on a crowded tram waiting for it to move.

It's still odd to meet Afrikaans guys named Francois.

One of my bags will always come out on the baggage carousel way ahead of the other, leading me to believe that my other bag probably isn't coming, and making me lament what I will be missing from it.

Given the chance, I will always spill my ginger ale.

It's fun to be bumped up randomly to business class, even for a 1.5 hour flight. They give you real dishes and real glasses and even a table cloth!

There are three roads in Namibia.

For some reason, short South African Airways flights always show clips on the televisions from a Quebecois comedy festival. Does this have anything to do with the Afrikaans guys named Francois?

Everyone's money is prettier than ours.

There are frequent flights from South Africa to places like Kinshasa and Libreville. Really, does anyone want to go to those places? And, if so, is that wise?

White people do not walk in southern Africa.


Monday, April 06, 2009

still here

I've been a negligent blogger of late. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to do everything that needs doing. So one of the first casualties of that time crunch is the old blog. Admittedly, the lack of time is a flimsy excuse to cover the fact that there are priorities right now that are stacked on top of the blog.

The greatest time sucking activitiy these days is my determination to learn to use my new lathe. I spend hours in the workshop practicing the skills required to become not just proficient, but masterful. I have a long way to go to achieve that goal, but trying is the fun part. I get to make mistakes and learn from them and get to make successful turnings and wonder at the beauty of an object made well. What could be better than that. When I finally create something I am proud of, I will share it with you here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

turn, turn, turn

This aching back nonsense is getting old. Now I have to see a specialist of some kind to determine what is really going on. I know what’s going on---I’m getting old. The old bod is wearing down.

But despite my aches and pains I still have a new skill to practice. I just got my new wood lathe installed in its own special place in the workshop. Now I am ready to turn, turn, turn. After taking a six hour class on woodturning last month, I am ready to practice and learn on my own. I picked up a couple books on woodturning to study and reinforce what I learned in that class and now feel ready to go. Unfortunately I probably won’t get to try until next week since the weekend is already filled with other plans.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

still sore

It's been four days now since screwing up my back and I still want to scream vile obscenities every time I try to get up or sit down. The muscle relaxant drug prescribed may or may not be working (how would I know? how much worse would it be if I wasn't taking them?). I can't bend over at all. Simple movements that we take for granted are beyond my capabilities right now.
Thank goodness that there were many basketball games to watch over the weekend or I would have gone crazy, staring into space because I can't move or do anything.

One odd result so far from taking the muscle relaxant drug is that my PD tremors have subsided considerably. Mary noticed right away that my usual trembling hands were resting quietly instead of pounding away on the chair arm or shaking the newspaper while trying to read it. Are muscle relaxant drugs a suitable treatment for PD? Or do they simply mask the symptoms without treating the cause. That is a question I will have for my doctor the next time I see him.

One good thing is that my blood pressure has returned to near normal now that my two teams have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin and Marquette both went down today so my blood pressure quickly followed. Now I can watch the remainder of the tournament without all the shouting and handwringing and threats of mayhem against the opponents and the questioning of their ancestry while throwing anything handy at the TV. I have to get back to normal before the tournament ends or you'll have to lock me in padded room, although the padding would be superfluous since i can't freakin move.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I never thought that putting on shoes could be so difficult and painful. But when you can't bend over you are limited to the length of your arms when dealing with your lower extremities. And though I've been accused of being a knuckle dragging neanderthal before, right now I would welcome the necessary arm length and a few skinned knuckles if it meant getting my shoes and socks on without my screaming disturbing the neighbors.

Why the back issue you ask. I wish I had an explanatioin that included bravery and gallantry, macho he-man savagery in the cause of rightiousness, or medal earning heroics. But the simple truth is that I was merely stepping out of the shower, one foot in the other out, when my back seized up and went into full blown spasm. After several minutes of loud cursing and pathetic whimpering, I realized that something was, indeed, dreadfully wrong. My first thought was to somehow drag my worthless carcass into the bedroom where I could call 911 and get someone to come here to put me out of my misery. But since I was still naked from my shower and didn'nt want to traumatize anyone at such a sight or embarrass myself beyond my crying helplessness, I managed to ever-so-slowly wriggle myself into some pants and a shirt. At least then I would maintain a modest amount of dignity as I lay dying on the floor.

Somehow I managed to get my shoes on through a series of minute incremental steps involving bending where my back would rather not bend. Why so insistant on getting my shoes on? I decided in my pain induced delirium to drive (yes drive) to keep my scheduled appointment with my physical therapist, reasoning that she would perform some magical voodoo and relieve my of this painful state. I was in no condition to drive, I know, but I reasoned that since it was only a trip of half a mile, I could make the attempt.

The result? I got there without mishap, Chris performed what voodoo she could to get me functional again and sent me home with instructions to call my doctor and get some muscle relaxant meds to help me recover. So here I sit, doped up and befuddled, half conscious and mysteriously happy in my drugged state. But the old back is still mighty sore and uncooperative. This is going to take a few more days before I will be able to move with any kind of normalcy. Once I can get my shoes on without shedding more tears, I will know I've reached that normal state.

Golf season is only a couple weeks away. Will I make it back in time?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

carpe diem

Funerals are not fun. Especially for someone who would be considered still young at age 51. You usually don’t expect to have to go to a funeral for such a man until another 20 or 25 years have passed. I figure anything beyond 75 is a bonus so dropping dead at age 51 seems cruelly wasteful. And yet that’s what happened. Here one day, gone the next.

The man in question was someone I only knew peripherally. He was the father of my son’s best friend. I talked to him only twice that I can recall, so I’m not feeling any great personal sadness at the loss. I feel sadness for my son’s friend’s grief at his loss, of course.

The only profound thing that comes from such an occurance as a sudden death is the realization that we have to seize each day we have and not waste a moment we are given. Every day is a gift that we get to unwrap and enjoy. Whining and complaining about the various things that happen is a waste of the gifted day. Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but looking on the bright side is a whole lot better than wasting even one minute of our allotted time among the living.

And, yes, I have my share of things to complain about and regret, but I figure I have far more good tings to outweigh the bad, so you’ll hear little complaining from me. I’m only 61 and I fully plan to reach 100, so I have along way to go before there will be any weeping at my funeral. There are still a lot of days to unwrap and enjoy. Carpe diem, indeed

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

getting caught up

I’ve been so busy the past few weeks in the workshop that I’ve barely noticed the accumulated snow disappearing more and more each day. I haven’t been out of the house much, other than a few routine errands, because at this time of year there is nothing to do outside besides coping with the occasional overnight dusting of snow. Nowhere to go and nothing much to do out there means I don’t feel guilty about spending most of the day in the workshop.

So it’s time to get caught up on the stuff coming out of the shop. I’ll post some pictures here, but if you want to see more you can click on “gallery” in the sidebar and get a comprehensive look at all my work.

This wall sculpture piece is called Holy Smoke. Read into it what you will.

This set of boxes is the result of an exercise in making wooden hinges for the box lids. It’s a bit more complicated than you might think. The finished pieces turned out well and the hinges work the way hinges are supposed to. Details and dimensions are with the “gallery” pictures.

While hoping for Spring to come, I couldn’t help thinking about all the dandelions and lawn weeds I will have to battle once the growing season begins anew. So I created this “voodoo” replication so that I can feel in control. We’ll see how well it works in another month or two.

And this last item is the result of my first attempt ever at wood turning on a lathe. I took a wood turning class last Saturday at one of the local woodworking stores as an introduction to the process. I wanted to see if I had any aptitude for lathe work and whether I might enjoy expanding my creative horizons with a new skill. As you can see with the bowl I made in the class, aptitude is not a problem. For a first attempt, it is more than satisfactory. And I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the process. I think I am hooked. Now alI have to do is buy all the necessary equipment so that I can further pursue this newfound skill. It may be awhile before I’m able to make the financial commitment, but I will do my best to help spur the economy along the way to recovery.

So that brings us up to date on the current workshop output. I do have three other things in the works right now and you will get to see those in due time. Right now, it’s time to get back to work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

winter doldrums

It’s that time of year again, the neither/nor time of in between. It’s’ neither warm nor particularly cold. Winter seems to be winding down, but Spring hasn’t quite taken over yet. The ground is thawed enough that the sump pump is running, yet there are still the dregs of dirty gray snow lining the driveway where the sun doesn’t shine.

We can see the grass although it is far from green, looking mashed down and forlornly brownish. There are, of course, no buds on the trees yet, but the branches look to be a healthy reddish hue that comes just before the burst of life.

I want to go outside and start cleaning up the yard, picking up fallen branches and other detritus that somehow accumulates under the snow. But I know it is too early for that and I would simply be wasting my time. There is undoubtedly more snow in our winter’s endgame, so it is best to wait for yard cleanup until we are reasonably sure that the effort will be noticed.

Being stuck in the house at this time of year creates a lethargy that is hard to get past. I want to pick up a golf club and swing it with real intent, but t isn’t quite time for that yet. I’d like to inflate my bicycle’s tires and roll down the road for a bit, but the prospect of the resulting wind chill brings me to my senses. I want to fire up the lawnmower and attack the overgrown grass, but the grass hasn’t started to grow yet and certainly isn’t overgrown. The anticipation is nearly crippling. Even though I can’t get outside and do those things that can only be done outside, I still find it hard to get busy inside to make the time pass more quickly. I feel like I’m in the starting blocks waiting for the gun to sound and the race to start.

The weather tease we’ve had over the past couple weeks—mild temps and lots of sunshine—is actually worse than repeated snowfalls that winter should bring because we know that it can’t last. I think I would rather have a full blown snow bombardment twice a week to remind me that this is the winter season and it should be more white than gray/brown. I think I would prefer that the snowcover lasts until one glorious week of fast and furious thaw leading into a sudden blast of green all around. This transition period is not cutting it with me. I can see the appeal and beauty of hibernation. Maybe if I go take a nap I will awaken to the world I want to see. Spring can’t come soon enough

Friday, February 13, 2009

wall sculpture

In this wall sculpture I was trying to get a stark almost foreboding feeling to show what being alone must feel like. The rather stylized tree wraps around the lonely bird making it feel like escape will be difficult. A somewhat depressing exercise, I know, but a subject worth exploring.

The piece is 48" high. The tree is cedar, the little bird is maple. I have posted pictures of this and my other work in the "gallery" link on the sidebar if you want to see more.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

too much food

We are, as a nation, being constantly bombarded with the unassailable fact that we are fat. Not just a little fat. Grossly obese. We have become a nation of fatties.

No where is this fat fact more apparent than in our restaurants, where we gather to stoke their bodies with all manner of unhealthy and fat laden foods in gigantic proportions. Yes, there are healthy choices to be made in most restaurants, but we seem to be genetically incapable of choosing those healthy alternatives. We naturally gravitate toward the saltiest or sweetest menu items. We almost always pick the greasiest and most cholesterol laden gut bombs that are there to entice us. Besides being fat, we are stupid.

Of course, we can’t lay the blame for our excess avoirdupois solely on the restaurants we choose to patronize. After all, we do have the choice to stay at home and feed ourselves properly nutritious meals.
We generally think of eating out as a treat, a reward for making it through another hard working day, or an occasion to celebrate one of life’s milestones. When we approach our dining experience in those terms it is easy to forgo the healthy and instead indulge ourselves with the forbidden. Once in awhile that may be ok, but as a general rule, we need to stop celebrating so much and start watching our diets more closely.

I am not opposed to eating out at all. We go out to eat two, sometimes three, times a week. But when we do, we are careful to select what we hope are the less harmful items on the menu. We don’t go to fancy places much. Our eating out is relegated to the “family” restaurant type of establishment. But it is in just that kind of place that we encounter the most egregious examples of portion abuse of unhealthy foods. Those kinds of restaurants want to appear to give their patrons the most for their money, which to them means lots and lots of heaping portions piled high to overflowing on the platter. And then the training we received as children kicks in. “You’re not getting away from the table until you clean your plate,” was the rule drilled into our heads by our well-meaning mothers. So we clean our plates and think we are being good little girls and boys who then deserve to have dessert.

Mary and I have found the best way to conquer the portion problem in the restaurants we patronize is to pretend there is only one of us there to eat. We order one meal and then split it between the two of us. Even then there seems to be more than enough to go around. Have you ever noticed that when you order, say, a chef’s salad you get an entire head of lettuce? There is generally enough lettuce and other ingredients involved in that enormous salad that two people could graze on it for several days and never suffer a hunger pang. We don’t mind that in some restaurants we get charged an “extra plate” fee when we declare that we are sharing one order. It is still cheaper doing that than undergoing gastric bypass surgery in the future.

I doubt that if restaurants were to start providing sensible portions of food at a reasonable price, their business would suffer. People would simply become accustomed to the new reality and continue to eat out. They just wouldn’t get as fat doing so. And an ancillary benefit to those more sensible portions would be the slimming down of our pets, who would get fewer treats of harmful people food from the paucity of doggy bags making it home. If you can’t think of the reform of our restaurants as being good for you, consider it a crusade sponsored by PETA to help ensure the health of our pets. While we get thinner our dogs get healthier too. Talk about win/win.

Friday, February 06, 2009

another cane

I finished this latest cane a couple weeks ago and have since used it almost exclusively. I made the handle quite thick and substantial to make it easier for my reluctant Parkinsons hands to grip.

The cane is made of Brazilian Cherry and Oak. The Cherry is a deep reddish brown color with a distinctive grain and is quite pretty. The shaft is Oak with Cherry stripes.

Next on the workshop bench are a couple sculptures that should be completed in the next few days. Then I have another box series planned and I started carving a chess set that will take a long time to complete. So many ideas, so little time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

let there be light

My wife, Mary is fortunate in that anytime she wants a piece of furniture or some redecorating done around the house, she merely has to threaten to go out and buy what she wants. She uses that old psychological ploy knowing that I will insist on making whatever it is she wants. I feel used and manipulated. Nevertheless, she gets what she wants more often than not.

A couple weeks ago she started thinking out loud, within my hearing range, about how a new floor lamp was just what she needed to finish off a corner that she had just manipulated me into repainting. Not just any floor lamp--specifically a Craftsman style lamp. She was mumbling about what a good buy she had seen in some catalog and how she would order it the next day. Naturally all that was a scheme to get me to make her that lamp. She knows I hate to buy anything I am capable of making. The other part of her scheme is to insist that she needs that lamp RIGHT NOW so that I will jump right to it lest she makes good on her threat to buy. Man, am I easy.

So here it is. Fresh out of the workshop. Turned out well. She seems to be happy with it. But she has already started mumbling something about the bedrooms needing some work.....