Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's hip to be square

I have finally, after two years, $500, endless cuts, measuring, and cursing, made a square piece of wood.

Stick a fork in it, it's done!

This, friends and neighbors, is a momentous moment for me. This is what I have been working towards for the last two years, ever since I got my Rigid circular saw. All it took was five saw guides, a computer, and a $250 table saw. OK, really all it took was the $250 table saw; the rest was just "practice".

I made several saw guides, but then I cut up each and every one as I attempted to "fix" them as soon as I made them. Except for the last one, which worked perfectly until I accidentally put the "short side" of the base on the "long side" of the guide and cut it off. I now have a not too bad guide that only works on the least stable side of the saw. So, by building my own saw guide, I was able to avoid buying a $30 saw guide and instead made one from materials I already had. Except I made so many mistakes I had to buy more wood. And then I bought the friggin guide anyway. So now I have a $30 guide that cost me about $60.

The best way to compensate for a lack of skill, as we all know, is to buy bigger tools. I went online to read about how to cut a piece of wood straight without the use of a circular saw. This led to a bunch of pages about hand saws, so, I changed my search to exclude hand tools and include power tools, because, I mean, really, who does that?

Eventually I settled on a nice Jet contractor saw on Amazon for $300. It was reviewed well and seemed a good deal for a starter saw. But really I wanted more, so I was scanning Craig's list every day in the hopes of finding something better. On the very day I was going to buy my Jet, I saw an ad for a Grizzly table saw for $250. That was clearly the saw for me. It was like Jesus himself came down and said "David, I'm not really in the carpentry business so much anymore, so I want you to have this saw". And it was good.

The Grizzly in its natural environment

My saw is not exactly the saw in the link above, but it is the closest thing to it. I also got a heavy duty rolling stand and an outfeed roller with it. Isn't it beautiful? look at it again:

Note the golden sunshine reflecting off the cast-iron table,
as if Jesus were pointing at it, saying
"Look! What a beautiful saw I gave you!"

This is a great saw. I had to change the fuses to 20 amp timed release just to get it to stay on. The lights in the house dim when I turn it on!

I joke about this saw and go on and on about it, but I can tell you, the quality of my work has increased a hundred fold just by using this saw. I am a lot more excited by what this will mean to my work than to anything else. I built an end table in 3 hours, complete with dados and tetons. Those are real joints! Without this table saw, I would have used 3 different tools and taken much longer to make a trapezoidal disaster that couldn't hold its shape, much less a glass of juice! I am excited because now what I see in my head is possible; I can make the things I want because I can cut a straight line.


2,595 miles

Most people who read this blog already know we ended up driving to Texas in the middle of possibly the worst snowstorm Washington and Oregon have ever seen. We had driven to Adrianne's as planned (her massage shop was open, despite the storm) and got the news of our flight cancellation at about 10 PM, three hours before scheduled lift-off. Continental Airlines' next available flight would have touched down on Dec 26th, and that just wasn't going to work for us. (I have to say, I was impressed that Continental did offer to refund our money, which was really unexpected.) So, with no other options that ended with us in Texas, we got in the car and drove. Well, actually, we had to push the car out of the parking lot first, but once that happened, we got in the car and drove.

The drive itself was absolutely horrible the first "day". We hadn't planned on doing this, so we had not slept or packed food before leaving. The tank was full (good thing, too) because the Prius doesn't really use gas, I think it just evaporates in the tank real slow. I was afraid to stop until I was completely south of the storm, (it would have been beyond terrible to get stranded in Portland or someplace and miss Christmas altogether!) we drove 341 miles to Sutherlin, OR in just about 9 hours. That's an average speed of 37.88 MPH. Most of the time we were below 30.

Next we drove about 831 miles and stopped at the Hi-Way Host Motel in Pasadena, CA.

We had only slept a few fitful hours in OR, so I was pretty beat and for some reason I thought this was a cool, kitchy place to stop. It wasn't, really. It is the only motel I have ever been in that offered free cable porn by default (although they don't tell you this at check in). So, to the sound of the plastic matress cover crinkling under us and the gentle sting of bleach fumes stinging our noses, we slept the sleep of the dead.

The next morning, we left after an exuberant good bye from the very nice asian proprietor (I think we may have been the first customers to stay a whole night) and drove the final 1384 miles to Austin, arriving Christmas Eve morning around 9 AM. (I think; I was pretty out of it by then!)

We had done it.

When we left Bellevue that night and told everyone what we were doing, we got a lot of reactions to what we had done. In fact, at that first stop in OR, after we had slept a few hours, even Kathleen and I looked at each other and asked if we were doing the right thing. But I thought Corey had put it best when we called and told him what we were doing. We had driven a Prius 350 miles through snow that had all but crippled two states; we had driven when no plane could fly, when no train could chug, and we did it all with out chains. Corey's reaction, unexpected but appreciated, was this:

"That's badass!"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Magic!

I love Christmas! This is actually new for me, as I didn't always really love it. It seemed expensive, reminded me of my failure at all matters financial and involved a lot of driving around visiting. But now, older, wiser and more secure, I have found that I really, REALLY love Christmas.

Christmas is best in New England, I think, and part of that is because of the snow. I mean really, what's Christmas without snow? It's not white, it's green or brown (depending on where you live). You know what else is brown? Of course you do.

So, whenever it snows at Christmas time, I know I'm either at home or Santa Clause has again spread his Christmas magic so that all us good New England boys and girls can have a happy Christmas. This year may be the best Christmas EVER in terms of white, fluffy Christmas Magic.

First off, it snows in Austin, TX. Read about it here. I mean, really; snow in Texas! If that's not Christmas magic, then I don't know what is.

And then, we got about 5 inches in good ol' Sedro-Woolley!

You can see up my nose in this one!

So, you see, there really is a Santa Clause! Of course, not everyone was real happy about the snow:

Leave me alone!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's been awhile

It's been awhile, I know. Not because I don't have any ideas, I just have a hard time having an idea when I am actually in front of the computer. I have written some great posts, they just never got out of my head. But here's a synopsis of a few that I remember;

Remember when I wrote about "crap"? That was actually a riff from a Family Guy episode when he has a segment on the local news called "That Really Grinds My Gears". I like Family Guy because Peter sounds exactly like Greg, I guy I know back home who's family owns a potato chip factory.

Anyway, I went to get my hands checked at the doctor's office and I sit down for the test with a nurse who looks like she's about 10 and she asks me to sign a form that says if my insurance company doesn't pay, I agree to pay the amount due, which was $850. I said, why did you schedule me for something if you don't know if its covered? Isn't it your job to check? And she didn't really have an answer because I'm big and scary and she was little and 10. So I just got more and more angry and stomped out because I was so mad. I didn't mean to scare that little nurse, but I think I did. But still, they have managed to pre-clear or whatever every other test (and I've had a bunch), but now all of a sudden they want me to check before I come in! That, friends and neighbors, is crap!

So I am now waiting until the new year and will see about getting seen by the doctor who would do the surgery instead of my "regular" doctor. And I am trying to find a new doctor, as well. I really want the work done, but its just going to have to wait until the new year.

Speaking of crap, I built another wooden catastrophe. This time it was a big cabinet to hold my tools. I was taking pictures and everything to document it's construction, but when it came out all screwy, I never got around to doing the post. I still can't cut square (there's a funny, sad, story about my making a saw guide three times only to saw it in half in the end, but I didn't write that one, either) and so my "cabinet" is not "square", which is kind of important. But it does the job, just not in the usual way and it's funny looking. Kind like me.

When I made it, I used a router that Kathleen's dad gave me, and there was a good post in that about how I was using the tools passed down from generation to generation (his dad was a carpenter and gave it to him). There was also a post in that about growing older and being in a family and a serious piece on the connection between tools and male identity. I expect to have many more opportunities to ponder these subjects while destroying perfectly square wood with my various tools, so I think I'll just come back to those ideas later.

I changed the battery in my car and replaced the connector and had a good post about that (with pictures and everything) until I later realized that the battery had been fine, and it is the actual battery cables that need replacing. I wasn't really sure how to put that in the post and keep the feel-good tone I was going for when I thought for sure this was all going to work out really well. I had a nice piece in there about my stepfather and his pride in his daughter when she did something to her alternator cap that worked out really well, but again, the part about being completely wrong about the car sort of broke the flow of the story a bit. So now I have a nice new battery that works great if I wiggle the cables enough to get a good connection so I can start the car. Look for it later, I guess.

Also there was a post about Corey bringing me a coin from the Lockheed Plant and his experience with being proud of his work and the powerful feeling that goes with that. The sub-plot was about how the coin was such a great metaphor to me about our relationship. I carry it with me everywhere I go.

Then there was Halloween and Thanksgiving and time with Adrianne (what a great Thanksgiving we had with her!) and of course lots of stories about missing my various Family members in New England and Texas.

So, it's not that I don't have plenty to write about, its just that I think of this stuff in the car, or the shop, or work, or when I'm falling asleep; but never when I'm in front of the computer.

So, to make sure this goes up, I'm not even going to proof read this; I'll just post it.

I'll talk to you soon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've lost my grip...

For some time in the late 80's I worked at a factory that made imitation velour cloth. To make that cloth, they took long thin threads, cut them, dyed them, and attached them to cloth. My job there was to take the dyed and cut fibers and dry them in this huge machine. Once I had the machine running, I mostly stood at the end and filled bags with the fibers (called "flock").

The finished bags weighed between 50 and 120 pounds each and I had to grab, lift and shake each one a few times to settle the contents so all the flock would fit. I worked 12 hour shifts, six days a week for about six months. I filled a bag about every 4 minutes when I was running, which was about two thirds of the time. So I filled a lot of bags. Every bag got lifted and shook, and by the time I was done, my hands were huge.

In high school, I was not an athlete or a lady’s man; I skipped football for theater and avoided confrontation in high school. I even got beat up once at the bus stop.

But after I graduated I got these huge hands, and every now and then, I would pull something apart or grab something and someone (sometimes even a girl!) would say “Wow, you’ve got big hands!” They made me feel badass. They made me feel competent, strong and invincible. I learned how to use them to protect myself, to keep myself safe.

One day, they started to hurt. They hurt when I was working in the yard. They hurt when I had to pull on a rope or dig in the dirt. One time I couldn’t extend my middle finger on my right hand for an hour. They would lose sensitivity and I’d drop stuff. They would ache. When I rewired the house, they got worse. I couldn’t turn a screw or bend wire for more than a few minutes without resting my hands. I had to connect one wire then do something else for a minute to rest my hands, then do the other wire. In what I thought was the ultimate disgrace, I had to ask my 22 year old neighbor to take a fence down for me. I just couldn't pull the nails out.

There are no real rituals anymore that define us as adults, or as men. I never had children and I'm not married, and those are about the only ways you can signal to the world that you are an adult; that you are a man. But for me my hands were a sign, they made me different from the kid who got beat up at the bus stop, they were my power, my wisdom and my story. They defined me.

Or so I thought. The people I work with don't know about my hands. I have no reason to demonstrate their power, but they see me as an adult anyway. Not because of what I can do with my hands, but because of how I act and what I say. I had been in a panic, wondering how I would live with these weak hands, how I would succeed without them, but their usefulness was lost long ago. No one really cares how strong my hands are. It might change people's ideas about me if they knew, but not very much. My history is long enough now that any power or wisdom I have comes from what I know, from my life. I can do more with that than I can with strong hands.

Turns out I will probably get my hands back. I most likely have carpal tunnel syndrome, and that accounts for all my symptoms. My doctor and I are working on that. I will be glad to have them again, and will feel safer and more confident if they come back 100%, but now I know I have other power, other ways to stand up for myself. I have the rest of me.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I have always been amazed at the quality of the people in my life; they are far more generous, gracious and honorable than I and yet they seem to love me still. I am at times judgmental and pious and frequently harsh and clumsy. I am sometimes selfish, thoughtless and distant. I know I drive people crazy, but they still hang around and I know I can depend on them and that they will always have my back. I love them, and I know they love me, despite all my flaws.

I know I have good qualities; I'm not trying to put myself down or anything here, but I am still amazed by how good the people I know are. That they care about me touches me. Sometimes, I'm so touched, I even cry a little. Actually, I cry a lot. So much so, its embarrassing.

So there's this sensitive side that I have that leads to all this weeping and carrying on and I wonder sometimes how anyone can take me seriously when I'm so obviously verklempt. I mean it can happen anytime; at work, at home, even when I'm alone. I'm sitting talking to someone and BAM, I feel my face get all red and my eyes get watery and sometimes I can just stop at that but sometimes I can't and the next thing you know I need a tissue. A little dainty tissue. Like the kind a 10 year old girl uses when her dolls are sad at the tea party.

So all these people and all this sensitivity has culminated in the most powerful, emotional force I have ever experienced; Wesley.

Wesley is the sum that is greater than his parts. He is part Joshua; curious, intelligent and logical. He is part Amber; kind, thoughtful and generous. He is part Adrianne; fearless and capable and beautiful. He is part Corey; wild and strong and loyal. And he is part Yaya; connected to the universe and safe (as only a two year old can be) in his trust of it. And he is good, like they are.

I never thought I could feel such love for someone as I feel for him. That I could be so connected and just... overwhelmed. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough room in my heart for anyone other than him. And yet there is. There is Joshua and Amber and Adrianne and Corey and Kathleen and now Jillian.

And so I am a crybaby. That is his gift to me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I can't believe he picked her

I cannot believe how stupid Sarah Palin is. How did she get to become the VP pick for a presidential nominee? What was McCain thinking?

Watch that video. It's not even the "Bush Doctrine" one, its about Iran and nukes and the Middle East. She knows NOTHING.

How bad is this country getting? We pick George Bush twice and McCain picked Sarah Palin.

My god. We're all gonna die.