Saturday, December 30, 2006

Night stand - parts and pieces (post five)

I cut a lot of various parts today and used mortise and tenons joints, but you've seen that so I'll skip the boring details. However, I did stray from traditional joinery this afternoon so I'll introduce that technique.

The furniture I'm patterning my design from both have an "under-top". It isn't a full piece of wood like the top is; it is just a frame that appears to be a base for the top. I milled the pieces for this "skirt". It is pictured to the right. This goes just under the top surface of the night stand, but it is slightly smaller.

Wood can be glued edge to edge and "top" to "top", but it can not be glued on the end grain so I have to fasten the pieces together using some mechanical method. More on that later, but now notice the groove or dado on the inside. I will use this dado to attach the top allowing for the top to move. I will show this when I get to it, but for now remember the groove.

A biscuit is a handy European invention that is now widely used to fasten this kind of butt joint. You can see it to the left along with the biscuits. These are small pressed pieces of wood in the shape of football. They come in various sizes for different applications. I am using the largest size. The idea is simple - a small blade cuts half-a football shaped groove in the end of the wood. Insert the biscuit and join a matching piece of wood; cut the same way in just the right spot, both up and down and left to right, to the first piece of wood. The biscuits expand, the glue drys and you have a very strong and simple joint.

Here is a biscuit in a joint. You can also see where I stopped the dado so as to not interfere with the butt joint. I wasn't precise with this cut and just make a rough mark. By the way, this dado is done on the table saw with a very wide blade that is adjustable in width. It is called a dado stack. I could have also accomplished it with a router, but it is harder to set up - the table saw is quick and easy.

Here is the assembled piece. I will glue this overnight and use a router tomorrow to profile the edge. This actually is the first piece I have glued. I still am not going to assemble the entire stand,but I will start with some of the parts - I have to - there are almost 50 pieces stacked and taking up room!

I also glued up some panels for the bottom, or "floor" of the stand. These boards are simply glued together on each edge after being joined on the joiner. A glued joint like this will crack and split the wood before it will break. This is in contrast to the end grain I just wrote about.

The Snow Storm

Well, here's the final damage. It may be hard to get an idea of exactly how deep. The largest piles are just slightly taller than I am. On the level the snow is just about waist high. We were spared from the last final one to two foot. The forecasters were calling for a second storm followed closely on the heals of the first. I'm not sure what happened, but it never materialized.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Night stand - the carcass comes together (post four)

The next items to make are the stretchers for the front. These separate the two drawers and the area with the doors. In modern furniture it is typical to have one at the top too, but the Victorian pieces have no top stretcher so I will not use one either. Mortises are first cut into each leg. This is accomplished on, of all things, a mortiser. Basically, this is a drill that cuts a square hold. Set-up takes a while, but once you get it going the holes go quickly. The depth of each mortise should be slightly deeper than the tenon. If you call it too close the shoulder won't sit tight against other member. This also leaves a small space of the extra glue that will be pushed in at assembly.

Once the square mortises are cut they are then cleaned with a sharp chisel in preparation to receive the tenons. Next, I mill up the stretchers and cut the tenons on each end. The bottom stretcher is larger as a design element. This gives the base a sturdy feel and supports the wood on the bottom.
Although, it may look like I use only machines every piece get tuned by some quick hand work. These pictures show trimming the tenon so that it is just the right size and flushing the shoulder so it sets perfectly flush. I set the plane blade to remove .002 with each pass. Obviously, it is better to make the parts slightly oversize and then fit them. It is kind of hard to add once cut!

WOOPS! I'm always ripping myself up with the hand tools!

Now to check it out. This is the basic carcass hastily assembled without glue. That will be later.

Night stand - the start (post three)


It took about an hour to select the wood. You might imagine picking boards off of a pile, but it isn't that simple. Wood, when cut, tends to bend and twist if it isn't carefully selected, so I'm looking at the grain for many characteristics so the table doesn't tie itself in knots when complete. It is advantageous to select boards from one tree, but I don't have that luxury so I have to look at color and grain too. All kinds of different grain will look odd and tend to break-up the overall look calling attention to each individual piece of wood.

Here's the stack. It doesn't look like much - yet. Now, I have to go through and mark each cut so as to plan the use of the wood effectively. Again, I want the the quartersawn pieces in certain places and certain grain in other pieces.


I am using 1/2, 3/4, 1, and 1-1/2 inch pieces. Each piece will be milled to thickness using a planner, then joined on one edge so as to have one straight edge to begin ripping on the tablesaw. This process actually takes a quite a bit of time. Once complete I start cutting the individual parts. This is a few of the parts for each of the side where I will start. Next, I start milling the tenons on the parts that need them.

The requires a lot of work on the tablesaw. First I set-up a machine that holds the wood so I can mill the cheeks of each tenon. You can see the first two cuts on the end of the one of the side pieces. Two more cuts complete this operation. Each tenon must be very precise so the glue is not squeezed out, or the fit too loose. It is common to work at tolerances of .01.

Next, I cut the shoulder of the tenons. As you can see the tenons are smaller than both the width and depth of each piece. This makes for a clean look when assembled. If the mortise was cut to the full size of the board a ragged edge would show and it would be difficult to control the width when clamping.

Next a grove gets milled in each leg to accept the tenon and the 1/2 inch panels that go between each rail. This picture show some of the pieces after finishing this phase.

The next picture shows the end of an assembled panel. I won't glue this until much later - it is just stuck together for now. Look closely and you can see that each thin panel (1/2 inch) can move in the space between each rail. Also you can see the tenons of each rail even with the panels which will fit into a groove on each leg.

I then mill a grove in the legs to accept the rails and panels. The first parts, the sides, are now complete. This is how the sides will look - two on each stand. I still have work to do to the legs, but the side panels (after final fitting by hand) are ready to assemble. The back of each stand is made the same way, with poplar though. Poplar is cheaper and backs won't show and poplar was customarily used in this period. In cabinetry, this is called a secondary wood.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Night stand - wood movement, joinery (post two)

When assembling anything out of solid wood (vs. plywood) one has to consider wood movement. Wood will move - it cannot be stopped. And, if it is held tightly it will crack, split, push, and otherwise create havoc. So, either design it to move, or watch it slowly tear it self apart. As I said, wood is anisotropic - it moves in different directions depending on grain direction and it moves with changes in humidity.

A board has three dimensions - length, width, and depth. But, grain direction is dependent on how a board is sawn. Wood moves least in length, and for practical purposes the amount is insignificant and in furniture construction almost ignored. It moves least tagentently to the grain - as in the quartered board in the diagram. This is called quartersawn or rift sawn lumber. It move most in the flat sawn dimension, or as woodworkers say, "across the grain". (It also tends to cup because of the differences in expansion and skrinkage - the two opposing forces working in opposite directions.)

So, what does this mean for our night stand? It must be designed for the movement of the wood. The best way to illustrate this is to look or think about a door panel. Most likely there is one in your kitchen. A typical door has rails (on the top and bottom) and stiles on the sides that frame the panel. The panel is not fixed, but floats within the four sides. This is called frame and panel construction or a floating panel. If the panel were fixed the panel would crack (during low humidity) or push apart the stiles (during high humidity).
There are many ways to accommodate wood movement and the selected method is a factor of many considerations. I will use the floating panel on the sides, but the panel won't be raised, but flat fit into a grove along the legs and the intermediate horizontal sections. Each panel will fit loosely and thus not push upon the other panels.

In addition to the wood's movement there is joint strength to consider. Wood can be joined from anything like a simple screw or dowel to dovetails and tenons and everything in between. As with most things, the most difficult is most often the best. That is why modern furniture is seldom made with traditional methods (or traditional materials like solid wood - plywoods and particle board can't even be joined by traditional methods.)

Most of the wood joints in these two stands will be mortise and tenon. Basically, a tongue is formed on one board and then fit into a square hole in the adjoining board. Usually, one piece is fit perpendicular to the other similar the the diagram of the rails and stiles above.

After basic design I need to write down the size of every piece of wood and how many I will need and then go to the lumber yard and try to find the sizes I need. This process is very much like a big puzzle - there are somewhere around 100 pieces of various sizes and thicknesses which will be sawn from various size boards. The object is not to have too much waste. Oak is about $4.00 a board foot and waste gets expensive fast. (a board foot is a piece of wood 12 inches wide, 12 inches long, and 1 inch thick).

To the lumber yard.

Night stand - design (post one)

One of the problems with an antique country Victorian bedroom set is that there simply aren't any night stands of the era - let alone something that might match what we have. We have used various stands beside the bed, but nothing looked very good, and we usually only had one so one person had the light and the clock. Now, we have a king size bed that is so tall it takes a running leap just to get in bed and everything is now too short. So, I'm going to make two matching night stands and I thought some of you might be interested in the process. I will start with the design, discuss the joinery, show the construction, assembly, and finishing. I will finish with a picture of Tammi, freshly torn from slumber, frantically beating the alarm clock against the top.

I am going to match these...

Both are oak and although similar, not exactly alike and not a set; therefore, the design elements will have to be taken from both pieces. Of course, as I said, the Victorians didn't really have night stands. I guess the fact that they didn't have alarm clocks and lamps may have something to do with that. So, whatever I come up with won't really have existed in the period, but hopefully you won't be able to tell. After several rough sketches I began in CAD and I ended up with this drawing.

(I don't know if you'll be able to see this - try clicking on it to open it up full size) This drawing shows the basic design without the joinery. I used the principle of the golden rectangle to come up with the overall dimensions and the entire front is divided into roughly thirds. The proportions are very important to the success of the design. Two drawers are at the top- the smaller one is on the top with the larger one below. Drawers generally get bigger as they go down. Two large "posts" frame the piece - each 11/2 inch square. Most of the rest of the elements are undersized to emphasize the height and keep it lite and not bulky. The top with be somewhat thicker so as to finish off the stand as older furniture looks. You might notice that all of the horizontal elements are sized for their location - larger on the bottom, small in the middle, and middle-sized at the top so the top appears to be resting on something substantial, but not too big.

What isn't shown is the joinery. I will mostly use mortise and tenon construction with dovetailed drawers. The doors and sides will be frame and panel construction with flat panels. The most important consideration in the joinery is wood movement.

Wood is anisotropic: its material properties are different along different dimensions. It is strong when stressed along the grain (longitudinally), but weak across it (radially and tangentially). It expands and contracts in response to humidity. This change is very small longitudinally. It is considerable, but unequal, in the radial and tangential directions.

I will talk about this next post.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

From the Shop

"Leaping Box" is hot off the work bench, but with no particular purpose in mind. It is maple with mahogany. The legs were formed by hand. I plan to do some more modern styled furniture and this is the direction I want to go. I actually found the wood at Home Depot digging through the stacks. The picture clearly shows the figure in the grain, but doesn't quite do it justice. There is a fancy french word for this kind grain and its ribboney effect - chatoyance.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween madness

Wow, Halloween. Bridger came home last night, stripped down to his underwear and jumping bouncing, rolling, hopping, leaping, and yelling had me sit down and sort the haul. Candy bars here, and gum here, suckers over here, and...what do we do with these dad? Piles were everywhere. Some enterprising anti-candy Nazi even gave out rubber balls. Most likely a dentist.

So, now we have to endure the pleading. By the way, if you throw away a piece a day, they never know. And, of course, there is always the big lie, "I think you ate that last week, sweetie".

Halloween has gotten pretty sophisticated since I was a kid. Pillowcases were the most common haul bag of choice. Costumes were all homemade. Only the "rich" kids got a orange plastic bucket. If you were lucky you got a mask. They had this funky elastic string, skinny and white attached to the mask with little tiny metal pins fit into the end of the elastic. But, the pins were the second thing to break - the first was the hole in the mask. A second hole was then needed. By the end of the night the "new" holes were everywhere, and this wasn't even the worst. The worst was the hair. Everyone walked around with a bald ring around the back of their head for several weeks. I think some of the girls may have actually found the white string somewhere in a tangle of hair several weeks later - mixed with some hard candy. Eventually, the mask ran out of places for new holes, the pins came off and knots no longer could replace the pins. So, you just held it up in front of your face and said your piece. Most every kid walked away holding a mask with so many holes; and because it was being carried, now long tears from each side all the way to the eye and mouth hole. Speaking of eye holes - they must have had some weird mishapped kid for the mask model with either no eyes at all or eyes on the side of their head. I'm not sure I ever even got my mask out the the box without creating a long tear. How the one shown here survived, I will never know. Perhaps it is the only one. And, who is this? Did we actually go a just some guy?

We would get apples, a lot of popcorn balls (you couldn't eat them fast enough and soon they became popcorn rocks - the real, but secret source of bad teeth), cookies, and some candy bars. Maybe five candy bars were a real score - the holy grail of the season. These were almost worshipped. Carefully laid out and guarded with your very life.

Bridger doesn't guard his candy so jealously. Amazingly enough, it wasn't too long ago that he finished last year's stash. It wasn't that he got so much as he is really into saving. Don't ask me what that might look like when he's grown!

Now, if I can just sneak the tootsie roll pops before he finishes them off I'll have it made.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Stupid, addictive, but fun games (also hard)

Stupid, addictive, games

This one is really hard, I managed 7.5 seconds ( appears that this one is now broken - shame)

Regardless of the fact the this one is in french it's still fun; however, I am still sure it's a pansy. This one I can regualarly do about 25 seconds.

Here is another, deceptively simple, but hard. Record - 825 feet

So, waste lots of time, but don't blame me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Marine Captain's letter

Click on my Life 2.0 link and read this letter.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mind Maps

If you goggle "mind map" you get about 134 million results, yet I don't think many people know what mind mapping is. A guy named Dr. Allen Collins invented the concept in the 60's to help his students, but I noticed in the book, "How to Think like Leonardo" that Leonardo used this method and may have actually invented it. I became aware of it several years ago and now I use it quite a bit. It is especially useful in making complex decisions, and especially useful for decisions encountered in business - litigation, planning, strategy, etc.... I would best describe it as stream of conciseness thinking, but without forgetting all of the variables you may have identified while thinking - now they are laid out in front of you. You can move them, delete them, add to them, etc... Every idea is attached to every other idea with numerous links which reduces the complex to one dimension and thus a better decision. It is a semantic representation of the thought process. The best way to describe it is to actually do it and it is quite easy.

Freeware is a topic I should write about sometime, but anyway - there is an excellent program which is free (hence freeware or open source) and works intuitively called Freemind. It is easy to find a download location. I highly recommend it - you'll look (and feel) like a genius.Above is a more complex example of what it can do I use to make decisions concerning Requests For Proposals. Here are some examples I pulled off the internet. Even in German you get the idea. Here is another done by hand. I should mention that doing them by hand is a viable method, but I find the drop and drag function in a program very useful. (Also, because I am such a bad speller I rely on spell check - to me, spell check is crack) I often start with a hand drawn copy to ferret out the main ideas and then take it to the computer for revision and expansion. There is wow factor when you actually sit down and make one of these. I would almost call it an epiphany. If you give it a try and you are consistent I guarantee a very satisfying result.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Knowing & Being Known....

There have been times in my life that I knew something to be true, but denied its existence because I couldn't change it. I would have to admit I hid from it. Whether avoiding the pain by not looking at it, or fearing the blindness it might bring, the results were the same.

We all have the opposing desires to both cloister our inner selves in order to hide aspects of ourselves from others, and also to expose our inner selves to others. We feel deeply that we want those around us to know us, to embrace what is truly us, to accept, respect, and love us for what we are, but yet instinctively we fear the cold glare of both strangers and friends alike. Do we fear ourselves that much? (Or, do we fear pain? See previous post.)

In thinking about this idea it is telling that the simple act of just accepting someone can bring that person to tears, especially if there is a perceived negative aspect or shame in the hidden or undisclosed. Acceptance is powerful stuff. Yet, that opposing desire to hide, driven by fear of rejection, keeps us from knowing and being known.

We talk about knowing ourselves and finding ourselves. If you think about it this is quite an odd concept - finding ourselves. It even sounds silly, but we all relate. How? If we do find ourselves that means previously we have been either lost or blinded, but most likely hiding from ourselves. Few of us are completely lost and if we are blinded to certain things it is usually permanent. So, finding ourselves (think smaller scale...perhaps, not in the grand sense, but in smaller, subtle ways - but, none-the-less damaging) is not really finding anything. It is not hiding. When we are transparent we can then know and be known - real connections, real relationships, real life. Remember, we talking about degrees. Few have no real relationships, but few have the transparency that allows us to be truly known.

I would be the first to admit that it is no simple task to allow our foibles, imperfections, fears, or whatever out there, but as in most things simply acknowledging a thing eliminates its power. Leigh, a good friend, said it like this:
"I believe that we are born with the imprint of personality and that we inherit certain biological structures, processes, and tendencies, but that who we mostly are is the culmination of profound experience and the impact that those experiences have on our emotional, psychological, and spiritual development. I think that those three, emotional, psychological, and spiritual are interconnected and inseparable. What impacts one area also impacts the others. I don't know how you feel about it, but I always find it interesting to stretch our internal selves. I think it's the only way we grow, and that if we aren't progressing, then we are digressing because change is ongoing and nothing remains in stasis. Our society pushes Intellectual pursuit as a big thing, and it's a good thing, but for me it's just the acquisition of cultural, and other, information and does not necessarily encourage growth in the big three areas that I think are vital for functioning. In fact I think that for a lot of people it becomes a shield that they use to protect themselves so that no one can see how truly vulnerable they are feeling."
She is right on.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Out of the Shop - finally

I just finished my most ambitious furniture project to date, a taboret for Tammi. It will get a glass top - she uses glass as a palate, as most artists do now. It is constructed primarily of mahogany with poplar on the under side and poplar also making up the drawers. The drawer fronts are made of Leopardwood - a strikingly figured wood grown in Africa. The top tilts and also may be raised and lowered on a dovetail rail inset with aluminum by which it can be locked into position. Traditional joinery is used throughout. The base is fit together with mortise and tendons, the drawer and top are dovetailed. The underside uses dados allowing the many pieces to fit loosely thus allowing for the woods movement. It is finished with aniline dye and coated with tung oil and polyurethane. It is just about four foot wide.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Recent & recommended

I can never seem to limit myself to a few specialties and my reading reflects my schizophrenic interests. Jack of all trades, master of none. So, perhaps a few "recent & recommended" books might spur someone to read some things I found very interesting.

Self Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again - Norah Vincent
From a man's perspective what she discovered is not surprising, but what woman don't understand about men is very surprising. I enjoyed her concise writing style and some of her observations are right on, but unusual and thought provoking. For those with an interest in gender issues.
ABC news
Norah's website
Amazon's reviews

Why Gender Matters:What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences- Leonard Sax MD, PHD
This is a must read for parents - even if you have only boys. I expect this is one book that might start a revolution
Amazon's reviews
(all of Amazon's pages have reviews, links, etc...)

...and while I'm on boys, here is another must read for parents of boys

The Wonder of Boys - Michael Gurian
Amazon's site with post by Michael Gurian and links to

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything- Steven Levitt
This is one of those books that is pure pleasure. If you love counter thinking this is for you. Here's something Steven Levitt said:"I think of economics as a worldview, not a set of topics. This worldview has a few different pieces. First, incentives are paramount. If you understand someone's incentives, you can do a pretty good job of predicting their behavior. Second, the appropriate data, analyzed the right way are key to understanding a problem. Finally, political correctness is irrelevant. Whatever the answer happens to be, whether you think it will be popular or not, that is the answer you put forth".
The book's web site

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - Jared M. Diamond
Here's another Gem of radical thinking. He won a Nobel Prize for it too! For those with a interest in anthropology.

The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell Blink - Malcom Gladwell
It is hard to pin these books down. Even after reading them twice I am not sure I can define a "subject" - business, advertising maybe. Just read them - a pleasure and something to get you thinking.

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century - Thomas L. Friedman
Here's one about gobalization. This one forces a world view we may not be ready to accept. Interestingly, after reading about India's workforce I received an answer to a help wanted on from Bangalore. The world is truly flat.
Mr. Friedman's web site

Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain: Becoming Conscious in an Unconscious World - Elio Frattaroli
The world of psychiatry doesn't agree on much. This book exposes some of the rawness and really opened my eyes to the therapeutic process, drugs, and Freudian theory. Upon reading this and discussing it with my shrink I found he knew that man and agreed with his theories - small world. For those interested in psychology and therapy.

The Gecko's Foot: Bio-inspiration: Engineering New Materials from Nature - Peter Forbes
Really great stuff about bio-engineering, materials engineering, and the new science of bio-inspiration. For example, a spoon, based upon the lotas plant, upon which honey will not stick - rolls off and leaves the spoon clean!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Milky Way

Recently, I was thinking about the Milky Way and remembering some of the places and times I've been mesmerized under its white embrace. There are many, and to me I always have clear memories of when it dazzled me. It never fails to inspire. I suppose that once upon a time most anyone could go out onto the front porch, or perhaps the tepee, maybe the hogan, or the yurt and simply expect it to be there. That, of course, is no longer. It is now special; reserved for memories and places we may wish we were at right now. There are many people who most likely have never seen it - not truly.

The Milky Way is the name we all know best, but it is only part of the name. It is the Milky Way Galaxy - it is where we live. Most readers have seen pictures of galaxies; a round, spiral, flattened disk. These galaxies are spread around the universe and we see most of them a single stars; although, in fact, there are billions and billions of stars in what we perceive as one star. Our galaxy is roughly 150,000 light-years in diameter and contains Earth's solar system. (A light year is 5,878,625,373,184 miles - yes, that's almost 6 trillion miles in one year. By the way, the farthest galaxy is 13 billion light-years away. Do that math!) We are on the outer edge, thus what we know as the Milky Way is really looking inward toward the center of our galaxy and what we see is a white irregular luminous band that encircles the sky defining the plane of the galactic disk. Kind of similar to being a mite on a pancake. Looking up you might be able to see "out of the pancake"; however, looking toward the middle the mite would only see pancake and not the outside world beyond the pancake. The Milky Way system contains hundreds of billions of stars and large amounts of interstellar gas and dust. The Sun lies in one of the Galaxy's spiral arms, about 27,000 light-years from the center.

But, back to the point - it's not science, it's memories. Moab is one of my favorite places. You can disappear in many places and be at least a hundred miles away from the nearest light and the cites are so far and so small and so spread out they don't affect the sky. I always believe I am looking at the same sky as the Fremont and the Anasazi. The Winds offer the same solitude, but higher. Sleeping at 12,000 feet one can hardly separate the stars one from the other. You can even see satellites wiz across the sky. Mt. Robson in the Canadian Rockies is also unforgettable.

There is also a special place in Vermont. The stars aren't quite so bright there, but the place in full of memories, and fun, and the stars are just the icing. Once Tammi and I, when we first met, slept under the stars in western Maryland. The Milky Way shone like new love. I will never forget the view and the feeling.

The milky way makes me think of my friends. Of being high, and cold, and tired. Of fun, of good sleep, and of fires, and climbing, and blankets, and easy talk. It is the stuff of life.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Pain is a rather interesting force. For obvious reasons I have been thinking about this topic again. I actually have a "philosophy" built around the entire subject developed recuperating from the dissolution of my first rather short marriage, now almost twenty-years ago. Of course, I am talking about emotional pain. Thinking about this I am just reminded of something my grandfather said as he lay dying just this last year. I was saying good-bye for the last time; "Artie", he said, (he is Artis, so in my family, I am Artie) "you’ve had a hard life". I don't remember what he said next - that stuck like a spear in my side. I laid my head on his chest and sobbing, said my good-byes leaving with that thought in my head. I flew back to Colorado and I think he died the next night. So, I will never be sure why he said that, especially since he watched his young wife die, leaving him with four little children. He did not have an easy life. He was born into a family of sharecroppers in the Deep South during the depression, and that was just the start. Gradddaddy's perspective deepens the mystery. Anyway, I guess I have a reputation; although, I really don’t see my life that way. There are plenty of people with hard lives. I don’t have a corner that commodity. But, one must always remember that pain is relative. Some people experience great trauma while growing up and some very little. It can very well be true that the person who really suffered some serious abuse can be quite fine, while the later develops some serious psychiatric condition. The capacity of the psyche to either overcome or succumb can never be minimized, nor can psychiatry portend some condition based upon any set of tragic events.

Back to the subject though -– physically, pain is a necessary evil; it literally keeps us alive. Touch the hot stove and it is a sure thing that pain will "make" you save your hand. Without the pain, you could very well just burn your finger right off. Not an altogether pleasant thought making it quite easy to see that pain is a good thing. But, (here's a great dichotomy) only through pain can we achieve greater fitness and the benefits that implies. The saying, "no pain, no gain" is familiar to us all. What we are accomplishing with the pain is building a better "machine". So, the more "pain" you can embrace while working toward a fitness goal, the more fit you will be.

Physical pain, therefore, has two aspects - one positive (building the body) and one negative (saving the body from a threat). There are those that avoid physical pain like the plague. Workout -– never, be hungry -– unthinkable; I could go on, but you see the point. Those life choices produce negative results, which in turn produce things like obesity, which in turn can produce all kinds of physical problems. All of this is fairly obvious, but apply the physical aspects of pain and pain avoidance to the other parts of our lives (emotional, spiritual, and relational) and wallah; you've got something to think about.

Think what happens when you avoid emotional pain. Think about the long-term affects - think about the relational affects. I am quite sure you can relate. This is huge if you think about it. Now, think about “"exercising" emotions – working out. A completely different picture begins to form. What if we were as proactive with our emotional muscles as with our quads? I wonder what we can do with our wives/husbands for a little work-out. I know I have had some serious workouts lately. Are you avoiding one - maybe, maybe not. It isn't pleasant, but I promise you some strong quads.

Friday, July 21, 2006

on adventure, risk, kids, and fear....

Deena commented on adventure and I found it an insightful comment. I want to follow-up with some thoughts. Here's what she said, "With the introduction of children, I find that my sense of adventure has lessened. Is it because I fear my own mortality and the thought that I may not be here for them. The realization plagues me daily that we all leave this earth some day and isn't it better to leave my children with a sense of adventure than a sense of is to reigniting my sense of adventure and remembering the bonds that brought us all together."

Of course, I can never think of adventure and Deena in the same sentence without thinking of her "fall" on Rainier. It was an piercing, earth shattering, warning - "falling"... after six inches it was pretty much over. It was a great moment.

Actually, this is a pretty weighty subject. When Alex Lowe died and left 2 kids there was quite a lot of banter. Both Tammi and I have been "chastised" for climbing. I think that adventure is equated with danger and rightly so, but it is an interesting pairing if you think about it. Adventure can't really be adventure without risk. I can't think of any other element that makes adventure "fun". (Not that there aren't other ways to have fun or other parts of it that arn't fun) Perhaps this is a whole other topic. What is risk for one person is not risk for another. Example - a commercial float trip with class two or three rapids wouldn't be too much adventure for any of my close friends. Sure, it would be fun to take the kids, but I think we would only say the day was ok. Add in some craziness and we would have a blast.

Now, throw in the kid factor to our adventures. Do I teach Bridger to climb? How about mountaineering? When I look at what I enjoy the most the answer is clear, but the answer is scary as hell too. And, as Deena pointed out - how about me? What do I do? I just went out into the desert for five days alone and climbed some things that most people would call crazy. For me it was like crossing the street and completely controllable risk (fun). (Why are these words interchangeable?) I truly do want to give my kids what I have enjoyed, but I can tell you one thing - it is personal and maybe genetic. I regret that neither Erin or Taylor enjoy what Tammi and I enjoy. I have had to accept the fact that they don't and it wasn't easy. I don't even completely understand it. It is so basic I think it universal - it's not.

Last year Tammi and I were mountain biking near Pine Ranch and we came across a dead guy. He was 52 and had a nine year-old daughter. He went over the bars and that was it. Broken neck - gone. On my vacation I went over the bars about six or seven times and thought nothing of it. I'm not sure why. I will teach Bridger to mountain bike - I just love it too much and he does too - already. And the dead guy - I' m not sure. Was he just "unlucky", inexperienced, or something else? I just didn't process it in a negative way. Although, I must admit Tammi snuck my name and address into my camelback - written with sharpie!

Deena's right - it is better to leave our children with a sense of adventure. Now, we have to figure out how to make them respect the limits - especially boys.

So Deena, here's to adventure and here's to us, and here's to the boys - once they see all the pictures and hear all of the stories it will be pretty much hopeless - we might as well teach them well!


Monday, July 17, 2006

just look around stupid...

Morels aren't well known, at least not like truffels. But, this gourmet mushroom has quite a following. Goggle it and you will get about 12 million hits. To its crazed minions it's called mycology, but that's so it has a fancy name. Hunting morels is like hunting snipe only they are real, and after you really find the first one it's pretty much like crack. They can be bought for around $40 bucks a pound, but don't ask anyone where to find them. There have been murders attributed to that knowledge escaping - these people are serious. And, rightly so - morels are good, really good. Scarce, hard to find, expensive, rare, and absolutely wonderful. This picture is in our flower bed. We have a morel factory there - go figure. No hunting, no fuss, no nothing. Just go out and see if they're done. What wonderful things do we miss because we just don't look around? A kids question, a moment that will never return, a lovers touch as they absentmindedly go by - I am sure it is simple things. We get busy and miss lots of morels in the flower bed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

curiosity killed the cat

What is the difference between those who, for lack of a better saying: are simply insanely curious, and never stop learning; and those who never really care about much besides what is right in front of them? It is precisely that curiosity that drives the machine of humanity forward and, I think more importantly, each one of us forward personally. I think every one of my friends have this quality - I think that's telling and I certainly enjoy people who are insatiably curious. Tammi certainly has this quality. I don't think we would enjoy so much together without it. (By the way, this is a part of one of a very curious person's painting - Tammi's. It is Erin studying - the person on the wall doesn't exist in our house or on our wall. It is someone from the past looking out to the future. I thought it an appropriate picture!) Anyway, kids have an almost universal curiosity. When does it leave and why do some people retain it and some not? How do we pass it to our kids or at least keep it alive? It seems to me to be one of the foundations of success. Here are some good quotes about being curious.

  • I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.

Samuel Johnson

  • I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.

Albert Einstein

  • Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.


  • Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.

Arnold Edinborough

  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity

Friday, July 14, 2006

just when thought you knew.... evil axioms

I have continually been fascinated by dichotomy - it's everywhere, yet most people, given a choice, will tell you that most things are primarily black and white. Suppose I asked you if the statement, "look before you leap" is a reasonable and applicable axiom and if you might generally apply it to you life. I think concurrence would be wide-spread. Now, suppose I asked the same question about the statement, "he who hesitates is lost". What now? What if I reverse the questions? These "truisms" are not as true as we suppose. In fact, I could argue that each is mutually exclusive of the other and therefore, neither is true. Yes, I can hear you say that it depends on the circumstance. That is precisely the point. What good is any axiom if it isn'’t a guide? In my book, they become subject to the whim of the user, perhaps USED to justify an action, or a result. So axioms are, in the end, worthless. The fact that I see "both sides of the paper" at one time drives my wife crazy. It makes it hard to get a firm answer and in fact, I know it to be true. Sometimes I think that I've done it, yes - whoever I'm speaking to understands - they see both sides. Mostly, I think it is fleeting glances and then it is gone. For me it is like understanding the theory of relativity. When I watch a special or read a book, I think, yes I've got it; I understand. Yet, in five minutes it is all gone again and I feel like a thick-headed moron standing around with his britches full. It is a nightmare to communicate, but it is a great way to approach any decision. For work, the partners in the company recently took management tests and I scored strongly in the big picture/little picture - both sides of the coin thinking. I just can't help it. It doesn't cripple me when decision making; it is terrific, but it is damn hard to communicate all the back and forth to more concrete thinkers. Because of this personal little wrinkle, I am interested in and I have collected axioms similar to the one given above for several years now. Some I ran across, some I brought together, and some are pretty obvious. This compendium will screw you up forever -– here it is!

  • Look before you leap; but, he who hesitates is lost.
  • Never judge a book by its cover; but clothes make the man.
  • The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder; but familiarity breeds contempt, and out of sight, out of mind.
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again; when the going gets tough, the tough get going; and where there's a will, there's a way, but don't beat your head against a wall.
  • Two heads are better than one, but paddle your own canoe.
  • It's better to be safe than sorry, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Many hands make light work; but too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • The bigger, the better, but the best things come in small packages.
  • What will be, will be, but life is what you make it.
  • With age comes wisdom, but out of the mouths of babes come all wise sayings.
  • The more, the merrier, but two's company, three's a crowd.
  • Opportunity knocks but once; but when one door shuts, another opens.
  • A word to the wise is sufficient; but talk is cheap.
  • A man's reach should exceed his grasp; but don't bite off more than you can chew.
  • You are never too old to learn; but you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Birds of a feather flock together; but opposites attract.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and if you can't beat them, join them; but to thine own self be true. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, but beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned; but penny-wise, pound-foolish, and if you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.
  • Haste makes waste, but time waits for no man.
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread; but seize the day, and strike while the iron is hot.
  • If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well; but half a loaf is better than none.
  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and there's no time like the present; but don't cross the bridge until you come to it.
  • Actions speak louder than words, but the pen is mightier than the sword.
  • Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know; but variety is the spice of life.
  • The best things in life are free, but no pain, no gain.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained; but, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  • A word to the wise is sufficient, but talk is cheap.

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