Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Satisfaction of something whether material or otherwise is entirely dependent on one's perception and expectation. Someone can have something that is less than stellar in performance, but if they decide that they are satisfied with that performance they will be content. They can simultaneously have something that is perfect but choose to not be satisfied because of preconceived ideas of how it should be. Case in point: I met with a customer yesterday for whom we installed a door several months ago. He refused payment on the grounds that the door was not installed properly because the panels were not aligned the way he thought they should be. So, I agreed to meet him at the job site and adjust things as needed until he was satisfied enough to make the payment. I stood there with him looking at his list of complaints, and agreed to deal with every single one and proceeded to do so. The major issue was that the sections go in and out about a quarter of an inch over the height of the door; this is necessary for the rollers to be free in the track and roll easily. His perspective was that the panels were not aligned properly because they go in and out; his statement was "It is common sense that things work better when they are straight and aligned with each other." He failed to realize why it would work better as installed. But I adjusted it to his liking and the door works horribly. The performance of the door is greatly diminished because of his idea of how it should be installed. But, he decided that he liked it and handed me a check for his past due balance. Then he started telling me all the trouble he has been having building his new house. He's been at it two years and so far has a foundation, walls, roof, windows and doors-- just the shell of a house. He can't get anyone to come work for him because they will not meet his expectations. He told me how every single contractor he has hired has done a horrible job and he has to show them how it is done. I know at least three of the contractors he has fired, and they are three of the best in their respective fields in our county. This from a guy who has zero experience in construction. He can't get the electric company to bring power to the house because they will not do it his way (obviously they have specs to follow and a grid to worry about; I'm sure their engineers know more about sending electricity through long wires than he does). He is proverbially shooting himself in the foot by demanding things that are not practical, reasonable, feasible, or necessary. His house would have been done 18 months ago if he would just let the professionals do their job. An illustration: if a jug of milk in your fridge at home is not sitting square with the refrigerator shelf, is it true that the jug is crooked? Yes. Does the truth of that fact mean that something is wrong? No! Is it ok to be satisfied with a crooked milk jug in the fridge? With out hesitation... YES! It is most often easiest to not worry about small things, and trust the judgement of the people around you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Random thoughts

We have had what I hope is the last snow of the year; it came yesterday and again this morning. I usually enjoy winter, or at least don't mind the cold and inclement weather. Since I do the scheduling at work, and a snow day means that everything will need to be rescheduled, those days are usually not fun but other than that inconvenience I enjoy the winter season for the most part. This year, however, I am ready for warmer air. We've had an unusually long snowy and cold winter for PA and I am a creature of change-- I don't like things staying the same for very long; the warmth of spring will be most welcome.

One thing I have accomplished this winter is converting the Monte to stick shift. The automatic trans has been in the car since 1999 and was needing some attention. Rather than spend the money of rebuilding that I decided to convert it to stick shift. What tends to happen with an automatic when a car sits a lot is that the valves and things will get sticky and hang up, and the trans will not work properly; my theory is that with a stick shift it can sit for any amount of time and work just fine. (That, and stick shift is more fun. In the words of my good friend Doug, it is a good thing to get rid of the girl-o-matic and put a man-pedal in the car.) As a side note, in the process what I have enjoyed almost more than actually working on the car is the way I funded the project. Instead of just outright buying something the cars needed, I set a goal and did work on the side to make it possible. The money for the new transmission and related parts was funded almost entirely from dumpster diving-- if I see something good in the dumpster at work, I will drag it home, post an ad on Craigslist, and wait for the phone to ring. It has worked out quite well and not just financially-- instead of just deciding I want something and buying it using our regular funds, it is very rewarding to set a goal, start at zero, and over time work my way up to that goal. Knowing that I'm doing my part to keep the landfill smaller and reduce my carbon footprint is rewarding as well. The accomplishment is now more fun than using the finished product.

Everyone says the older they get, the more they see themselves doing things just like their dad. I've said that in the past too, but now it's to the point that I find myself trying to see how much I can be like Pop. Hey, it worked for him. Some afternoon stop by the shop-- you might just find two pairs of legs soles-up above the sides of the dumpsters with a Stauffer on the other end.

The buffet table that I started last winter for Amy was finished the end of January, just in time for the Super Bowl party. It is serving us well and keeps the coffee pot and desserts well above the floor. It turned out ok for a first piece but I can't say that I am proud of it; the level of craftmanship is far from where I would like it to be.

Amy started a new blog and website for her artwork. It can be found at She is becoming more and more talented all the time, and I am quite proud of her work. She started working with a new medium and the results are very impressive. When she began creating more works with a goal of producing income in addition to her regular job, I agreed to start doing more things around the house, mainly making meals for us. I have always had a fear of what goes on in the kitchen, i.e., I perceived it as some mysterious, elusive craft which was not to be attempted by mechanical types such as myself. Thanks to Amy's patient encouragement I have discovered it is not such a difficult thing; with a little bit of know-how and some good tools, a quality meal can be put together without too much trouble. In that respect it is just like hanging a door or doing a brake job. A few weeks ago a group of my friends and I went to a cabin for the weekend; I cooked all the food and actually enjoyed myself quite a bit doing it.

Right now our small group is studying James, and they elected me as the discussion leader one Sunday when we could not be there to defend ourselves. I picked up a few commentaries and have been studying it in depth. James has got to be one of the most practical book in the NT.

To assist in Amy's artwork she decided to get a good camera. We snagged a good deal off eBay on a Canon 40D with virtually no use. I find it very complicated to use while Amy is on it like syrup on pancakes.

Lots of big things happening this year. We have several weddings of close family and friends, there is family day which looks to be a good time once again, and we are hoping to take a trip to the western US mid-August. We'll see how that works out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Of Life & Poetry

This is a bit of a rant, bear with me if you will.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The horror of the legalized murder of defenseless human babies disgusts me, and there are other matters of life and death within our society that the evangelical church as a whole turns a blind eye towards and in some cases endorses, much like the slavery issue in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These issues tend to float to the top of my consciousness on SOHLS.

How can a person at once vehemently condemn abortion and anyone who endorses the practice or has participated in the procedure, and almost in the same breath have an enthusiastic opinion on why the death penalty is necessary, good, right, even biblical? It does not work out logically in any way. If God is responsible for life and death, who are we to decide in what cases we will take it upon ourselves to make the decision?

This brings me to another thing: How can I endorse something if I'm not willing to carry it out myself? If I am willing to endorse the death penalty, I must be willing to pull the trigger, make the lethal injection, pull the lever on the gas chamber. I could not do that, therefore I should not endorse the death penalty.

With that in mind, I feel it is imperative for God's people to become more active in providing a way of escape for pregnant women who do not want their baby. Too often we want to condemn abortion without offering alternatives. If we believe that human life is sacred, then why isn't enough done to preserve it? We simply condemn those who want to end life, at least in the cases we choose. Anyone willing to condemn abortion must be willing to adopt the baby of a woman considering having an abortion, or they have no right to condemn the woman who must choose.
I woke this morning with shards of this floating in my head; I jotted it down and filled in the blanks before breakfast.

It's presence made her laugh and cry

Although she did not try

Inside her it began to stir

Although it clearly was not part of her

She did not want to make the choice

It soon would have a voice

Of all she knew, one thing for sure

Alone, it clearly was not part of her

Needing help, needing some reason

It was just a season

She stumbled up the steps into

A church, it would know what to do

Her presence made them laugh and cry

In scorn and pity sigh

To God's bride it did not occur

She clearly was not part of her

She told them what her choices were

Then they began to stir

The child inside, though still alive,

Inside a shell would always hide

They told her, "It's your lot to bear,

Duty we will not share"

Love of life they all would claim

But greater still their love of shame

She clearly was not part of them

The church was not her friend

It made her cry, she made it die

She had her reasons why

She clearly was not part of them-

Casting stones this sure did show!

She wanted life, they gave her strife

Not help, not love, not soul, not life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Romance, Life, and Accomplishment

He was a war veteran, and had the prosthetic to prove it. He made a donation of one leg, probably in the vicinity of Korea, in the name of preserving the American way of life. Forty years ago he and his lovely wife moved into a new house, fully intending to live out the rest of their allotted days; last week that dream was realized.

Thirty-six years after he and his wife moved into their new house, they got some new neighbors who were and still are filled with a romantic fervor regarding life and accomplishment. We didn't get to know him as well as we should have, or as much as he deserved. Our first interaction with him occurred on the road, actually; he was on I-78 in the slow lane, holding it at a steady 50 mph. We of course with our youthful enthusiasm blew past him in the left lane well over the speed limit, commenting how dangerous it was for someone to be driving that slow on a busy 4-lane highway. Irony is lost on an enthusiastic youth. Minutes after pulling into our driveway, he pulled into his. We hid behind our doors, hoping he had not recognized us. We certainly had not recognized him as our neighbor until then; we sure are the friendly sort. Several weeks later I meekly followed him at a safe distance along our little back road at a steady fifteen miles per hour. For miles. And more miles.

One day lost in thought and mowing the lawn, he startled me quite a bit when I chugged around the corner of the house and there he was, leaning on his geriatric cane and smiling. He introduced himself to me, and asked for a bit of help with something at his house. We talked for a bit, and he struck me as a very polite elderly gentleman. It was the day before Mother's Day, and he was the first person in my whole life to wish me, a childless male, a happy mother's day. I protested that wish with "But, I'm not a mother!" He adjusted my thinking a bit by responding "Does that mean you can't have a good day on mother's day?" We shared a good laugh, and then he told me how he lost his wife just months earlier. They had been married for many decades, and I could tell he missed her dearly.

They had a son who struck out on his own; the last contact they had with him was 20 years ago. At that time he was living in California. He never visited, even when his mother passed. This man was very alone. Our local police sergeant told me that his cell phone rang at least once a month with a report of suspicious activity in the neighborhood; none was ever found. The policeman believed he was called out simply so there was someone to talk to.

We invited him to our house for Thanksgiving dinner the other year; he politely declined, stating he had a prior engagement at the Heidelburg Restaurant. I saw his car parked there many evenings. I knocked on his door several times just to say hello, and he was always very friendly and loved to talk. His door didn't meet my knuckles nearly often enough. Once when discussing some of the latest happenings he told us of a local, extremely colorful weekly newspaper which he deemed as the best source of news and events. He tucked a copy of that newspaper in our door every week for some time. I'm going to miss that little reminder that he thought of us.

Another neighbor mowed this man's lawn every two weeks, necessary or not. On schedule for this past Saturday, he showed up to do just that. The doors to the house were locked and no one answered repeated knocks. The fire department came out and broke down the door for the medics who found his body in his forty year old house, where he had lived out the rest of his days according to plan. The authorities are searching for next of kin.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The winter woodworking experiment is working out nicely. Every Monday night I run from my desk, jump in my truck, and eat a Lebanon bologna sandwich and an apple on the road in order to make it to Reading at the appointed time. Old men talk about how fun a good busy retirement is, middle-aged men bend wood with steam and muscle and imagination, and strong-willed women overachieve with warped cedar and a patient instructor. It is a fine thing to inhale the scent of freshly milled lumber and the sound of a spinning lathe.

These are to be the end panels. There will be pieces very similar to this which will serve as the doors.

Camera-phone pix of the wood shop at Goggleworks and assorted personalities.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There have been a lot of changes since I updated last, namely the completion of the grisaille. I made a significant adjustment to the curvature on the right side of the pitcher after another artist pointed out the lack of symmetry. I'm somewhat embarrassed that I hadn't noticed the error myself; now that it's been pointed out to me it seems extremely obvious. Working from life is far more challenging than working from a photo for reference; translating the 3-D environment before me onto a 2-D surface while trying to produce the illusion of 3-D is far more harrowing that I previously assumed. That process is entirely new to me since with the photographic references I'm accusted to most of that work has already been done by the camera lens. At this point, I'm fairly comfortable with form with the exception of a few folds of fabric and the pitcher's spout, with which I'm not yet quite satisfied. I've started layering in color, thinly at first such that the grey actually shows through in some areas, and I'll continue this step until the entire canvas has at least one layer of color.