November 19, 2012

Twice Bitten

So I posted another free ad in Craigslist, this time to offer a pile of gravel free for the hauling. I'd like it out of my yard, and people are always looking for "clean fill" (judging from the signs I see on my travels).

You meet the most interesting people on Craigslist! As I have chronicled herein. Based on proposals I have received in the past that are clearly scams, suggesting that I ship large, heavy items great distances, that I accept personal checks or money orders for amounts IN EXCESS of what I'm asking for the item (and sending back the difference, minus some amount for my trouble) I have begun to stipulate that I want to deal only with locals and only on a cash basis (when money is changing hands). I don't understand how somebody can scam you when you're already giving the item away, but, I'm sure there are ways.

My ad for the gravel read, in part, as follows:

2. Don't play games ... be a real person with the ability to load and haul gravel. 
3. Be local ... tell me roughly where you're coming from so I know you're a real person.

Pretty unreasonable, right? What could I have been thinking? Fortunately, an anonymous correspondence has shown me the error of my ways, pointing out that I'm a "jack ass."

How dare I attempt to impose such draconian terms on this transaction!

I'm weird, I know, but I believe that there is such a thing as mutual benefit. You need gravel and have time and energy ... I have gravel and need space where gravel used to be ... maybe we can work something out. 

But for some people, I think there's no such thing as "free enough."

September 16, 2012

Nam Sibyllam Lorem Ipsum

To the long list of conference papers I'll never get around to writing, let us add the following: 

The Chair She Shat In: Eliot, The Waste Land, and Volkswagen

What I'm saying is that Eliot and Volkswagen have more in common than foundations in antisemitism. Consider the following: 

Datta: what have we given?  
My friend, blood shaking my heart  
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender  
Which an age of prudence can never retract  
By this, and this only, we have existed  
Which is not to be found in our obituaries  
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider  
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor  
In our empty rooms  
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key  
Turn in the door once and turn once only  
We think of the key, each in his prison  
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison  
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours  
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus  
Damyata: The boat responded  
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar  
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded  
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient  
To controlling hands

And then: 

If ever I am called upon to read aloud from The Waste Land again, I'm totes reading those DAs as, like, "DUUUUH!!??"

And also, stinky chair, ha ha. Must be the broken Coriolanus. 

August 30, 2012

Pied Beauty

I take this poem as evidence that Gerard Manley Hopkins agrees with me on the topic of bananas:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

August 04, 2012


My mother died a week ago. I don't have a whole lot to say about it yet. It was too soon, and she was too young, but as of a month or so ago it became evident that her time was limited. What has struck me at this point in what will undoubtedly be a lengthy (lifetime, I can only imagine at this point) period of "processing" all of this is that I have missed, am missing, will miss further opportunities to learn from her.

When your kids get into their late teens and you can actually begin to imagine them being self-sufficient, there's always somebody to tell you that the work of a parent is never done. It's not necessarily what you want to hear, I have to tell you, because you want your kids to go out and thrive, and also--if you're being honest with yourself--you have the idea that their success will free you up in certain positive ways. Presumably there will be less laundry to do, the leftover pizza in the fridge will still be there when you go looking for it, the car will not grow dents when nobody's looking the way bananas grow spots ... all of that. Okay, maybe all the "yous" in this paragraph should be changed to "I" or "me" ... but I kind of doubt I'm alone in this. I also doubt anybody ever feels that they're done teaching their kids the stuff they need to know.

Anyhow. In the past month, during which time my mother was frequently hospitalized and clearly not going to recover, we had the opportunity many people don't have ... to talk seriously and frankly with each other. I could express regret over all the missed or wasted opportunities to do just that over the past decades, but that would be pointless. Ours is not a demonstrative family, generally, so I'm particularly grateful that we had the time and (awful) incentive we did these past few weeks to express ourselves.

I was also able to see something I never really noticed during the last several years ... the strength she drew from my aunts, uncles, and extended family. Once a long time ago I mentioned to her in passing that being an only child had certain advantages, and my mother told me that as I grew older I'd wish I had brothers and sisters. I can't say that that has happened, particularly, but I could see how much they mattered to her, and she to them. And they've been very kind and supportive to my dad and me, even as we're both getting used to the idea that it's okay to accept that kind of support.

So ... lesson learned, and being learned.

July 26, 2012

My artistic vision

So the other day I posted a picture on Facebook of this "band saw box," made of walnut. To my surprise, it attracted many "likes" and positive comments, for which I am grateful.

While my ego rejoices, I think that the description I posted may have had something to with people's response:

Walnut "bandsaw" box in an organic style. Antique oil finish.

Hmm ... "in an organic style," eh? Classy! Or is that just a fancy way of saying "can't cut a straight line on a band saw"? Maybe, but it certainly sounds cool ... perhaps to the point where I must admit that I oversold the box.

Anyhow, that was the end of my rumination on the topic until my wife told me that her coworker admired the photo but thought that the box was actually a large nightstand or dresser sized object ... and I guess that, at a casual glance, the baseboard in the photo (because that's what it is) could be taken for wainscoting.

That would be a hell of a bandsaw, and a hell of a chunk of walnut. But I do like the box, and it's pretty good for a first attempt. It was a lot of fun to make, but LOTS of sanding, meaning lots of walnut dust to inhale and ingest. The piece may be a keeper, but it's not big enough to keep your socks and undies in. 

Now I'd like to show you my latest artistic creation, "Bol Cedre III."

"These fragments I have shored against my ruins"

As you can see, this unfinished piece deconstructs the very nature of the bowl: its "lip" is jagged, its peaks and striations suggestive of an almost lunar landscape. It is the death of bowls.

And it demonstrates what happens to a finely turned, almost-done cedar bowl when the wood splits and cracks at about 1700 rpm. Another one for the burn pile.

But ... I don't know ... to me, it looks kind of ... "organic" in style, no? I wonder what it would like like with an Antique Oil finish?

July 15, 2012

No good deed goes unpunished

Last week I posted on the nearest Craigslist (actually we're an hour from two different Craigslisted cities, so it's a crap shoot which one to post to) in the FREE section. Wow. We had an old above-ground pool that was standing in the way of some obscure renovation plans we're working on ... including a deck removal, the addition of a screen porch or mud room or something. So we decided to give the pool away.

You can meet some interesting people this way. Some of the responses were clearly bogus (though I don't see how they intended to scam me under the circumstances, I don't doubt that they could have ... I'm naive, but I know it). So the lucky winners (third responder out of the thirty or so who answered in the hour the ad was up) showed up yesterday to remove the pool.

The delightful young couple and their raised-by-wolves offspring (only one of the four, and, I was assured, the worst of them, whom the babysitter refused to watch) showed up in a ramshackle minivan with only two seats. So no carseat for the kid. God help me, after a couple of hours, I could almost understand why. To me, the mom and dad didn't look much older.

So Hansel and Ungretful show up apparently expecting some kind of inflatable pool. They brought a handful of tools: some pliers, assorted wrenches, and a couple of screwdrivers. Of the origin of these tools I believe I have some belated understanding. Anyhow, folks, this is a metal pool. LOTS of screws. So we broke out the impact driver and cordless drill. This ended up being a four-person four-hour fiasco, during which time I learned that there's a lot more to a pool than what I thought, including a lot of sand that has to be moved, in between hunting down the Artful Dodger, who keeps running off with the shovel, apparently intending to use it on the cat.

What I realized during this time was that I take many things for granted. Now, I'm not talking about the most obvious things, e.g. the stuff we have vs. the stuff other folks don't have. I don't downplay that--I actually think I'm generally sensitive to that sort of thing--but in this case it's more the stuff that I guess comes with it I'm talking about. For one thing, the kids I helped raise were comparatively pleasant, polite, and well-behaved. And clean. Mowgli was cheerful enough, I must admit, but his ignorance of his parents' requests and suggestions left me agog. They were clearly afraid of him.

And another thing: I'm no anthropologist, but I have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, and what I learned from that film was what makes humans human is tool use (also murder, and then something about a space baby--sorry, belated spoiler alert). So apparently because I'm so insecure in my humanity that I feel the need to prove it, I like to use tools. Well, I like to own tools, and I'm the first to admit I have more tools than I need ... but to me they represent possibility as well as the power to affect the physical world that surrounds me. So I like tools. I don't like the cokey buffoon Tim Allen though.

Anyhow, please try to focus on the story I'm telling here. You've heard me before on the topic of Robertson screws. Another little-known use for the square-drive screwdriver is in turning stripped, rounded-out phillips screws that won't respond to a philllips screwdriver (in other words, most of them, especially if you've tried to use an electric driver on them). Try it!

Well, Dennis and the rest of the Menaces were pretty impressed with this magic trick, and Mrs. Menace even remarked, a couple of times, how they needed to acquire such a tool (I'm paraphrasing; If I were to quote, I would sound like even more of a snob than usual ... and you know I hate to hear people correcting or mocking other people's spoken English ... but it would be hard not to in this case). So in the chaos of packing up the minivan, which they'll Joad back home relying as much on gravity as on such luck as accrues to people, two things happen. One is, they need to tie stuff to the roof rack, so I give them several bungee cords to facilitate this. The second is, and I know you saw this coming even though I didn't realize it until today, the magic Dr. Whoish Robertson screwdriver seems to turn up missing.

Now, this is not a particularly expensive screwdriver, and in the bugout, it's conceivable that it was tossed in the van in error, by young Grendel if not by his dam. Nonetheless, it was one of a set, and it's missing. And it's not the sort of thing they stock at Lowe's, it turns out. And she mentioned more than once to her husband how much they could use such an implement. So I'm a little irritated.

I hope my suspicions are wrong, because it seems to me that stealing little crap is kind of sadly pathetic, and doing it under such circumstances when you know it will be noticed and probably ignored because it's too much trouble to follow up on it bespeaks a certain lack of character.

With all due respect.

July 08, 2012

Banana Wars

Here at the Wordshed we have an ongoing difference of opinion about bananas. Some people like them ripe, and some people like them green. I am of the former persuasion, and I hereby present for your viewing pleasure the EXCEEDINGLY RARE sight of two bananas that survived premature consumption and have reached their ideal state.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go emulate my very favorite Samuel Beckett character (sans reel-to-reel tape recorder, of course!).

Dammit, I think they've turned.