Monday, December 10, 2012

The Smith

I dreamed of a wondrous Blacksmith...

               As I entered his shop, I first noticed a massive Anvil standing proud in the middle of the room. Bright and shining as if new this very morning.

There was his forge. A hearth unmatched. Warming me from a distance, but powerful enough to purify iron and harden steel.

A terrible, mighty Hammer was poised above the Anvil, waiting it's moment to strike.

And there's the Smith...
Wisdom shining from his eyes. Strength flowing from his arm.

               This was no ordinary Smith, for at that moment an Iron flew from the fire, white hot and malleable to his will. It came to rest on the Anvil and it was as if the Anvil and the Iron were in an embrace.  Seemingly unbidden and unguided by the Smith, the Hammer flew as of its own accord. Raining relentless blows upon the Iron. The Iron, guided by the hand of the Smith and backed by the Anvil, was transformed into intricate shapes inspiring to see. All of the Hammer's blows, direct and forceful or glancing  and weak, were used by the Smith to shape the Iron into something glorious. After a time the Iron sought sanctuary in the fiery Forge. Unworried of being burnt beyond use. Reveling in the power of the flame.

               Next from the white hot center of the Forge came a dead cold Iron untouched by the heat of the flame. It avoided the Anvil at all costs. And unsupported by the Anvil it was pummeled by the Hammer into grotesque shapes, breaking in places. Truly misshapen, it fell to floor crying to the Smith; "Why?! Why me? Why this? Why now? Why?!"

As I considered how one could be so inconsistent in his work, the Smith looked at me and smiled. My vision was transformed and I truly began to see what was before me...

 The Smith was the Saviour and the Irons were God's greatest creations... us.

The glowing Forge was the Holy Spirit with the power to harden us against trials, temper us against our faults and soften us to the will of the Lord.

The Anvil was the Word of GOD backing us against the assaults of the World, providing a platform on which to stand and guiding us in the will of the Lord.

 The Hammer was the World (and those that have dominion over it) striking tremendous blows and seeking to break us or at the very least bend us to its desires.

The Irons that were heated  by the Forge and were supported by the Anvil against the blows of the Hammer are believers who have accepted the power of the Spirit and embraced the Word of God. Those that came cold from the Forge and avoided the Anvil are the unbelievers and false believers that are not filled with the Spirit and scoff at the Word.

               The Smith asks the Iron to soak in the power of the Forge and stand on the Anvil, as the Hammer will strike whether we do or we don't. Through him, we can be truly transformed into something marvelous.

Perhaps most astounding is the fact that no Iron is too misshapen, too bent or broken by the Hammer to be used the Smith. Accepting the Smith,  basking in the Forge and standing on the Anvil will shape any old hunk into something beautiful.

God's will be done.
For His is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Build a Tesla museum...

The Oatmeal is raising money for buy Wardenclyffe (workshop of Nikola Tesla) with plans to create a museum commemorating the life of the Ultimate Geek.  Maybe you missed celebrating Tesla's Birthday...?  If so, feel good again by doing your part. Learn more here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Be prepared.

The Scout Motto. As a motto, it has a lot going for it.

Certainly better than other two word phrases I hear these days. F*** you. That's Hot. Forget this. Oh YEAH! (Thanks Kool-aid man.) Even Nike's inspiring Just do it doesn't fit every situation. Rob a bank? Just do it. (I know, three words, but short and powerful.)

But what does it mean to be "Be Prepared?"  A quote from the Boy Scout Handbook sums it up:
“Be Prepared.”
“Be prepared for what?”
“Why, for any old thing.” said Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting.

Why, for any old thing... Be prepared ... to give directions to someone lost (physically or figuratively.) treat someone for heat exhaustion (Hello Phoenix.) change a tire. comfort a friend in need. make a toast at dinner. give a stranger CPR. ...any old thing.

That little phrase has inspired 10s of thousands of young people (Girl and Boy Scouts share the same motto) to learn First Aid, Orienteering, Cooking, Sewing, Woodcraft and Public Speaking. And Scouts today learn skills in Computer Science, Rocketry (is that outdated these days?,) Social Networking, etc. I can only imagine the lives saved, let alone the lives enriched, by following the advice, Be Prepared

Lots of folks think Powell was talking about being prepared for an emergency or even war. And Scouting fell on some hard times for awhile, facing accusations of indoctrinating young people into a military war machine.  Granted, a great portion of Baden-Powell's life was spent battling the forces that opposed the British Empire, and (politics of Imperialism aside) he was darn good at it.  But I think Be Prepared is far more wide reaching.
It's about being a good a neighbor, a good citizen, and a good human being.
Being prepared fits well with the theme of self reliance that I would like to promote here. Expect to see more on the topic. ;)

Next time, "Prioritizing what to prepare for." Because you can't suddenly be prepared for any old thing... or can you?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Once in a lifetime...

is such an overused expression.  But today folks over most of the world have an opportunity to view a true "once in a lifetime event."  The Transit of Venus!  I know, exciting right?  What, pray-tell, is the Transit of Venus?  It's when Venus passes between the Earth and Sun and is visible crossing the disk of the sun.

WARNING!: Once in a lifetime events do NOT give us license to be stupid.  DON'T LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN! You won't be able to see it anyway, given that Venus will appear approx 1/32 the size of the Sun.  And you may not be able to see anything afterwards.  (Safe viewing tips below.)

What's the big deal, anyway?  Well, this rare astronomical event occurs in pairs (the last was in 1999) and the next won't be until 2117!!

Wait, I thought you said this was once in a lifetime?  You just said it happened in 1999.. Right... it wasn't  once in a lifetime then, it was twice in a lifetime.  Duh. Clearly that's why I didn't blog about it then (and I was too busy partying with Price.)

OK, so it happens once every century (or twice, or whatever) why should I care? Aren't planets and stars and stuff constantly circling the sun?  Planets, yes. Stars, no. (maybe visit the planetarium? today would be a good day.)  This particular event was instrumental in measuring the size of the solar system! And was arguably responsible for making our exploration of Space a reality.

OK, OK, I'm convinced.  How do I view this awe inspiring display of celestial clockwork?

First you have to NOT be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you're lucky, you get an awesome sunset view like the image above.  If not, you have a couple of options.

  • #14 Welding glass or Eclipse Shades  (Welding Glass available at local Welding Supply shops, Big Box Stores (Home Depot, etc) or Farm Supply Stores)  You'll need some pretty darn good eyes to Venus transit the Sun though.  We're not talking lunar eclipse here.  Much, much smaller.
  • Visit your local Planetarium.  If you're reading about this for the first time, you're probably out of luck.  Space geeks probably have all the spots reserved. Probably a pretty rockin' time though.
  • A Pinhole projector.  This is one of the few ways the non-planners can see the transit of they are interested.  Given the size of the silhouette on the disk of the SUN, your mileage may vary.  Pinhole projectors can be elaborate or simple.  You can even use your hands. Just hold up both hands with your fingers overlapping at right angles. The holes between your fingers make pinholes.

  • Project the image with Binoculars or a Telescope.

Thank You NASA!!

So, get your Geek on and take part in a truly once in a lifetime event.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How do you like your steak? Rare to Well Done and Back again...

Once you decide how you like it (or take your dinner guests order,) do you know how to cook it that way?

Sure, you can use a meat thermometer, but you're waaaay cooler than that.  Besides, a thermometer pokes a hole in that great sear you worked so hard for on that Porterhouse, letting all the juices run into your grill... where nobody can enjoy them (except maybe Vulcan.)

Watch the pros:

It's all done by feel. They know by touch how done the meat is. Cool huh?  But, how do they know?  Well, experience. They cook 100's of lbs of beef each season, and that calibrates that pro-quality, meat poking digit to know Rare from Medium Rare.

Here's a little trick to get a jump start on that experience.  Calibrate your finger with your own personal steak done-ness meter.  You already own one.. well, two actually.  The fleshy part of your palm right below your thumb is an amazing analog (that's right, analog, look it up) for raw beef.

Lay your relaxed hand in you lap palm up, and press with the opposite index finger.  That's what raw steak feels like.

Touch your index finger to your thumb in a circle (like saying OH-Tay!)
That's Rare.

 Now Middle finger to thumb 
 And so on and so forth...

It's not as accurate as a meat thermometer, but you won't loose all those delicious juices to the fire gods...

And you'll impress you party guests.

Now, get your grill on...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Everything old, is New again...

... there's nothing new under the sun... what goes around comes around...

I found a cool folding ladder on while surfing the web today.

Neat idea for those where space is s premium. I love cutting edge industrial design.

As I do traditional material culture...

And I am amazed when they meet.

The idea for these have been around for hundreds of years.  There is a great example (along with some how to in St. Roy's book Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop. Although his isn't leather upholstered like the example above.

(yes, I'm an Amazon Associate, so if you order a copy through here I get a couple of pesos, but don't let that stop ya from getting a copy.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is that bottle Half-empty or Half-full?

How many time have you wondered if you would have enough propane for your grill to finish tonight's meal?

Here's a tip:  At the end of a session at the grill, feel the side of the tank.  It will be cooler near the bottom.  The spot where it switches from cool to warm is the approximate level of the Liquid Propane.  Next time you go to use it, you'll know about how much "gas" you have left.

Can't remember from one grilling session to the next where the level was? No problem, grill out more! Or, do the same trick at the end of your preheat time.  That 5-10 mins will cause enough temperature difference to get an idea of the level, but not as much as at the end of the cooking time.

Need a better indicator? pour a cup of boiling water over the tank while the grill is burning.  This will cause the tank to get hot and the temperature differential will cause condensation near the level line.

Or you could get one of these guys (this one from Lee Valley:)

But it works exactly the same way, right down to the hot water.

WHY does this work? Go ask your Dad (or Yahoo Answers.)

Friday, January 6, 2012


Craft-   \’kraft\ noun- an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill
verb- to make or produce with care, skill or ingenuity –
Merriam Webster Online (
Craft has been an integral part of my life since as far back as I can remember.  Legos, Lincoln Logs, Scale Models, you name it.  Making and fixing things has always challenged and relaxed me, even as a kid.

I eventually moved on to more complex projects.  Sheds, Garages, even a church.  New kitchens, a bathroom remodel.  After High School, I worked for years building single family homes.
I always felt connected to the past and I started an self-education program in Craft.  I studied under masters past and present.

Roy Underhill- The Woodwright’s Shop (TV and Books)Alex Bealer- The Art of BlacksmithingEric Sloane- A Reverence for Wood, A Museum of Early American ToolsC. Keith Wilbur- Homebuilding and Woodworking, Indian Handcrafts


I thank my father for his work ethic, my grandfathers for letting me “putter” in their shops, my uncle Frank for his eclectic book collection, and all my other relatives who were always understanding (even when I wanted to be a 19th cen Mountain Man and trap beaver.)

They were all with me, encouraging me as I learned new skills. Timber-framing and Blacksmithing.  Even more old-school skills like Flintknapping and Hide Tanning.  I fell head over heels for traditional handcrafts. I truly was a Jack-of-All-Trades, Master-of-None.

I currently find myself having traded the “shop” for a cubicle, and the “hearth” for the glow of a
monitor.  I craft virtual buildings in an environment of bits and  bytes.

I still feel connected to those who create something with their hands, and I truly enjoy watching masters ply their craft.

In tribute to my past, here is a link to the past 5 seasons of the Woodwright’s Shop streaming online. (Sorry iPadders, it's Flash video.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Self Reliance (circa 1951)

Self Reliance is a theme that I would like to promote here.  While surfing YouTube the other day, I came across this 1950's educational film that fit really well with my own idea of what self reliance should be. I've always loved these old B&W educational films. I know it seems quaint and a little campy, but the message is as valuable today as it was 60 yrs ago.

Laid out in the film are four tenets:
  • Assume Responsibility
  • Be Informed
  • Know where you're going
  • Make your own decisions
How often do we find ourselves following this advice, and what are we giving up when we don't?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I'm married to a Tough Chik

I didn't know that when I married her. Heck, I don't think she knew that when I married her. But she sure proved it today.

Mara joined Tough Chik's online running community a while back.

Today she got a chance to earn her feathers.

Mara ran in the Fleet Feet New Year's Day Dash at Quaker Steak and Lube in Middleton, WI.

Today's weather at race time was 29 deg F, sustained 25 mph winds (gusting to 35) and a mix of snow and sleet.  The trails, roads and walks were covered in a sheet of glistening ice.

While this may seem more suited to Apollo Ohno, it is indeed the weather in which my beautiful wife ran 5 miles in 49 mins 24 sec.  She amazes me.

Post run celebration was at Quaker Steak and Lube. We watched the Green Bay Packers triumph over the Detroit Lions (even with out Rodgers.)  Race particicpants recieved a free raffle ticket for prizes announced at each quarter.  While we didn't win (even after collecting numerous tickets from those who couldn't stay) we were enamored by one of the prize packages.

It contained the usual swag and gift certificates to local sporting goods stores and bike shops, but the item that caught our eye was an "1hr Introductory Class in Log Rolling (for up to 7 people.)"  Welcome to Wisconsin!!!!

Those Tough Chiks sure know how to ring in the New Year.

Wear your Plaid proudly!

Tempus Fugit

Literally meaning "Time Flees" but most often translated as "Time Flies." Take advantage of every moment you're given this New Year.

Here's on of my favorite Bloggers take on time.

The artificiality of time.

First Post

Years ago, on a particularly cold morning in Canterbury, NH, I wandered into the kitchen wearing fleece PJ bottoms, a flannel shirt and my robe.  My wife looked up at me with a grin and said; "Not many people can pull off that look."  It was then that I realized pants, shirt and robe were all plaid, and all different.

That's kind of me in a nutshell.

I worked at a number of Living History Museums representing craft skills ranging from Blacksmithing to those of an 18th century Infantry Soldier, 16th century Sailor to Pre-European contact Native American skills like hide tanning and flintknapping.  I fished for lobster in the Gulf of Maine, was caretaker for the rigging on the oldest, wooden whaling ship afloat in the world. I've built houses, barns and churches. I was a tree surgeon and I've sold Real Estate and cars. Now I work in a high-tech sector of the Constrcution industry (you can find that alter-ego here.)

In short, this Blog is a place for all the stuff that lives in my head. I have always had eclectic interests and a photographic memory. And while that makes for a great Trivial Pursuit partner, it makes it nearly impossible to pigeonhole my thoughts and experiences.

Like wearing three kinds of plaid at the same time. It might not be pretty...and not everyone will get it... but it's me. I promise, it'll be fun.