Monthly Archives: January 2006

New Toys

 I’ve been trying to sharpen a big old back saw from my mitre box. It’s like only 12 tpi but I’m so old that I can’t see what I’m doing. I have this cheapie little Radio Shack microscope that magnifies 60x, but that’s too much magnification.

So I ordered these babies, which arrived today. Eye loupes from Grizzly, at 2x, 5x, and 10x. Neat, huh?

Justice Alito

For some strange reason, my father, in his dotage, is becoming more of a political animal. Sadly, such transformation involves becoming pretty much something of a dittohead. He calls the New York Times the “Traitor Times.” He says the Washington Post is not so much traitorous as corrupt. He subscribes to the Washington Times now, balancing out Sharon’s subscription to the Post. Oh, yeah, he reads Ann Coulter now, too.

Whatever. It’s good at least to see him at least paying attention to the body politic, although he has some catching up to do. He asked me to explain “undue burden” to him on Saturday. I mean, I’m no scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think any discussion of Roe necessitates a little background knowledge, Griswold and Casey at least. Or at least know who Harry Blackmun is before you go declaring that he pulled Roe out of his ass.

There are a handful of Supreme Court decisions we should all be at least passingly familiar with: Marbury v. Madison, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown, Miranda, and Roe.

Get a little bit geekier and throw Korematsu in there, at least for lefties. And then we can go back before Roe to Griswold and then forward to Casey.

So, anyway, my father also seemed quite triumphant over Alito’s appoinment, treating it almost as a personal victory. I myself found Judge Alito quite the dissembler, regarding his personal views when presenting himself as a job applicant to the Reagan Justice Department vs. his views now when presenting himself as a job applicant to the Senate, regarding his affiliation with Concerned Alumni of Princeton, and regarding Vanguard and (non) recusal.

But, hell, they confirmed Rehnquist, and he defended Plessy.

And so now we have five Catholics on the Supreme Court. Gee, you think that’s an accident? Think somebody’s up to something?

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Um, don’t get married? Is that what you mean?

Today’s second reading is from St. Paul, (duh), from First Corinthians.

An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.

We have to remember I suppose two things about Paul. First, he was overly zealous in his persecution of Christians before his conversion, so therefore afterwords he was like … you know, how ex-smokers are like the most avid kind of anti-smokers?

And secondly, tied in with that, is how St. Paul expected Christ to return in his (Paul’s) lifetime. So why get married, why do anything to distract you from the imminent return of the Lord.

So of course it’s been a couple thousand years since then. Lots of marrying going on since then. Good thing, too.

But then lets take his point as well. Let’s try not to worry, not too much, anyway. Monsignor’s homily was all about worry. Worry is pretty pointless, in the end.

Problem is, I worry. I worry a lot. I’m a worrier.

So Monsignor suggests prayer, rather than worry. So I’m going to try more of that. I mean, sure, I’ve got your basic Our Father and Hail Mary, and I have special prayers to St. Agnes. But pray instead of worry? That’s hard.

I’ll have to pray for help on that.


Dawn and I are back to the Kennedy Center for the ballet, week two of three weeks in a row. You’ll remember how we both really didn’t like last week’s National Ballet of Canada doing Swan Lake.

This week is a program of up and comers from all sorts of places. Protégés: The International Ballet Academy Festival. The kids are from the schools at The Royal Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, New National Theatre Tokyo, Paris Opera Ballet,Royal Danish Ballet, Kirov Ballet.

They’re incredible. It’s funny to be able to tell the difference between them and professional adult dancers, but they’re amazing and young and way better than I could ever hope to be.

Boys Day Out

Dropped Dawn off at a brunch off Van Dorn Street then headed off to my brother’s to meet him and my father to go to the Air & Space Museum out by Dulles Airport. We’re trying to get together every so often without the wives since we get along with each other much better than our wives get along with each other. Beach week every summer is very stressful because of it.

Rob is not in terrific health. (In fact he has an appointment with his doctor on Monday because of it). He does really well, though, helped by the places scattered around the vast museum for sitting and resting.

It’s fun to hear Dad talk about certain pieces. Of the Vietnam-era Huey, he claims it’s the only aircraft in which he felt safe when he was in Vietnam. Any Air Force craft felt like it was going to rattle apart, says he. He identifies a particular jet as having to be a Navy aircraft (and he’s right) because it’s squat and ugly and therefore Air Force officers would refuse to be seen in it. I’m detecting a bit of intra-service rivalry.

He also knows a bit about the missiles in that part of the museum, having worked at Fort Bliss and White Sands. Rob, too, having had some type of missile capability obviously on his ship in the Navy, the Hawes, a guided missile frigate.

I’m of course a big space geek, so I can tell you what’s a Mercury and what’s a Gemini, although it’s not hard to tell them apart. I point out that the Original 7 used to describe the Mercury as not something you piloted so much as something you wore. I think that’s from The Right Stuff.

We have lunch at Damon’s on either 50 or 29 or somewhere. I don’t know. It’s way out of town for me.

It’s great to chat and hang out with the guys.

Dad mentions towards the end how excited he is that soon we’ll have the fifth Catholic on the Supreme Court. I note how Clinton appointed Jews while Republicans appoint Catholics. Something going on, you think?

We talk about Roe some, as well as O’Connor’s undue burden test from Casey. Dad thinks the high court pulled privacy out of their asses for Roe. I actually don’t have much problem with Roe, thinking it’s a very logical step after Griswold. Dad thinks it should be left up to the states, which shocks me. Murder is murder, isn’t it, whether it’s federal murder or state murder? I think that there oughta be a constitutional amendment banning abortion, and it should also be a complete ban on the death penalty and nuclear weapons too, and we’ll call it the Life Amendment. Rob too surprises me, expressing his opposition to abortion, but not necessarily calling for a legal ban.

So, oddly, we’re all against abortion, but Dad thinks it should be a state matter and that the Supreme Court should overturn Roe, I think it’s a federal matter and we need to amend the Constitution, and Rob thinks it’s a personal matter and … I don’t know … what can you expect from libertarians.

Later I talk to Dawn and determine that she doesn’t agree with any of us really. She gets annoyed at me for trying to pin her down, but near as I can tell she thinks I’m a barbarian for advocating a total ban. And she thinks I’m slippery on life and health of the mother aspect.

Wonder Falls Update

So they ended the episode with Eric returning, but no explanation as to why Jaye is touched by her objets. Which is where it all has to end, episode and season and series.

The only 2 clues I can think offa the top of my head is, one, early on Jaye asks a pile of animals if they are God or Satan. Her conclusion is a heartbreaking, “Oh, God, I’m a crazy person.” Two is from the next-to-last episode, where she refuses a request from Dr. Ron’s monkey until he (the monkey) tells her why they talk to her. The answer is a maddening, “Because you listen.”

So, narratively the end is all warm and fuzzy and happy and satisfying, because it ties up the love story with a happy ending. Otherwise, though, never to know any more as to why they talked to her.

(I know. It’s just a TV show. But it was art. It was touching.)

And, finally, after 13 episodes, after 2 years, I’m the next morning in the shower when it hits me, “it” being something of a minor note but something I should have noticed a whole lot sooner. Jaye’s parents are Darrin and Karen, and her siblings are Aaron and Sharon. Again, a minor note, just something to emphasize her apart-ness, her estrangement from her family. I just hadn’t ever put it together before.

Wonder Falls

Friday night is always fondue and movie night. We’re just about to sit down and eat and watch the last episode of Wonder Falls.

My understanding is that the series has some sort of ending, wraps up somehow. I’ve been very pleased with it, even if I hate Heidi and wonder why Eric can’t see her for the evil shrew she is.

But I expected somehow Jaye and Eric not to end up together, since that would seem to tie up the season too well and leave nothing for a second season, which of course they never did get, but still.

So how can they end it all, without ending it all?

We shall see.

Icky Anti-War Movement

I’m feeling guilty still about the post below, about how distasteful I find much of the pro-life movement. Not the movement’s goals, mind you, but the movement’s members.

So I want to plug into the discussion here my distaste for many in the anti-war crowd as well. Again, I believe in an anti-war movement, but I don’t necessarily see a good one most days in the one we’ve got.

I absolutely fundamentally opposed going into Iraq, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t much broke up about going into Afghanistan, I suppose, but I wasn’t especially thrilled about it either. But Iraq? No way.

And then to have fucked up the whole Iraq thing before, during, and after? Unforgivable.


Ah, yes. But. What do we do now?

I don’t support then the wholesale withdrawal of American troops, to leave a basket case and/or power vacuum. If anything, we need more troops. Maybe not more American troops, but definitely more Saudi troops, more Egyptian troops.

Similar to Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, this President seems to be heading down an Iraqization policy road, saying we’ll stand down when the Iraqi troops stand up. I’ll believe that when I see it, but what I see now is this President just laying the groundwork for pullout, eventually leaving behind basket case or whatever.

So, anyway, back to the anti-war crowd. Mostly they seem to call for bringing the American soldiers home for the sake of bringing the soldiers home. The political message is the message, is all I see.

Powell seems to have been right, yet again. First with the Powell Doctrine, which is to have great public support to begin with, then to go in with overwhelming force, and to have a strict military objective which, when achieved, allows going back out again. This President didn’t have any of this going to Iraq, the dolt. Then Powell’s second point was the Pottery Barn Rule, meaning you break it, you bought it. We broke Iraq, so we now own it, and we don’t seem to be able to handle the caretaking. No wonder he bolted for the second term.

So, again, sorry for the digressions, but back to the icky anti-war crowd. By icky, though, I most certainly do not mean Michael Moore, who remains a great hero to me to this day. Admittedly I read Ben Hamper’s Rivethead before I saw Roger & Me, so I was maybe a little late to join the crowd, but I think Moore is a great humanist, a great humorist, and especially a great polemicist, and Roger & Me will always be on my Top Ten List. Oh, and Ted Rall is great as well.

But them A.N.S.W.E.R. Stalinists or whatever they are? Feh. With friends like these…

Icky pro-life movement?

Hmmm. What am I saying here?

I guess this all ties up together for me with what are all of the life issues: abortion, suicide and assisted forms thereof, euthanasia, the death penalty, and war.

In sheer numbers, abortions must kill the most each year, over a million each year in the U.S. alone, easily dwarfing death penalty and war. Harder to say worldwide, though. Maybe 50 million abortions per year worldwide, according to a quick article scan on Wikepedia, quoting a journal article from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

But from my own phenomenological perspective, how responsible am I for any of those deaths? As opposed to how much responsibility do I share when my state executes someone, or when my government goes to war and, ostensibly accidentally, drops bombs on and thus kills innocents?

I am responsible for abortion deaths by not marching for life, no doubt. But then I am responsible for state executions and war, by not actively opposing them in whatever marches of vigils are held in or out of town. And then add to that the mere fact that executions and war are state-sponsored activities, states where I am an active member, so I feel like I’m in some way doing the actual killing.

So there’s where my disagreement with the usual right-wing characters comes about. This President coöpts the Holy Father’s “Culture of Life” rhetoric, while at the same time killing prisoners as governor (and even mocking Karla Faye Tucker’s pleas for clemency) and promulgating war in Iraq.

So the March for Life doesn’t so much cover the gamut of life for me. It’s a March Against Abortion.

Which is not bad, but it’s not enough.

I see bumper stickers that say “You can’t be Catholic and Pro-Abortion.” And, okay, I’ll go along with that. But how can you be Catholic and pro-death penalty too? How can you be Catholic and not anti-war?

March for Life Day

I go to work instead and feel guilty about not marching for life. And I feel guilty about how icky I find so much of the pro-life movement.

I’ve always thought that someday, maybe a hundred and forty years from now, people will look back at our time, and abortion, much the same way we look back at slavery, wondering how decent people could have believed in or fought over what so clearly is wrong.

But then I feel guilty about not doing enough to bring that time about, or bring it about sooner.

I don’t much feel guilty about how much I hate the Washington Times and Republicans and that man in the White House. But then, just now, saying it, I do feel guilty.

And I don’t understand why the president only ever phones the march but never appears. I seem to remember George H.W. starting this, but maybe that evil Reagan did it before then. I don’t remember that though.

And now Canada’s looking even worse. What’s a boy to do?

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

How funny, the second reading, from Corinthians, chapter seven, how much that Rilke poem is like it.

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

And for the Gospel, we hear St. Mark’s version of how Peter meets Jesus. Remember last week we heard St. John tell how John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to Andrew, then Andrew followed and met Jesus, and then he told his brother Simon. According to St. Mark, Jesus found Andrew and Simon fishing, and told them to follow him.

Mark specifically puts this after John the Baptist has been arrested. But, then again, thinking about it, St. Mark doesn’t say that this is the first time he has spoken to Andrew and Simon Peter. In fact, it probably makes sense that they have met before, since St. Mark describes Christ’s invitation as a simple and terse, “Follow me.” Jesus isn’t just some strange dude wandering by with his Hey guys come along with me. They know him. His invitation isn’t a surprise.

Saturday in the Park

Typical Saturday for us.

Up at seven. Dawn makes breakfast omelette while I feed the kitties. Then out the door by 8:30, Dawn to her yoga class and me to the gym. Back home not long after eleven. Pasta for lunch.

Then walk through Lincoln Park, as in file photo above. That statue is, shall we say, somewhat paternalistic, condescending even. Anyway.

Work on the house. Beer-thirty at 3:30. Bit more work.

Then off to early dinner at Aroma on Nineteenth Street. From there to the Kennedy Center for the National Ballet of Canada’s presentation of Swan Lake. Dawn and I both really dislike it.

Then home to bed.


So, having finished The Accident, I picked up my worn copy of The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. I tried yet again to get all the way through the interminable Robert Hass introduction. Failed.

But did re-read one of my favorite favorite poems, not just favorite Rilke but one of my favorites of any poet:

Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
Vintage International Edition, March 1989
ISBN 0-679-72201-7


I finished The Accident yesterday. I wish I had liked it more, as I wish I had liked Dawn more. Night is easily the best of the three, its simple narrative much more powerful and affecting than the self-conscious philosophical arguments that dominate the other two.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing at all in the other two. Dawn is amazing in its own way, especially after I didn’t believe throughout the entire book that Elisha would go through with it.

And there’s absolutely no denying the power of the scene with the French prostitute in The Accident, although her screaming at him that he’s a madman when he declares her a saint just didn’t ring true for me. Maybe it was the translation? I don’t know. I understood the power of the scene more than I felt like it was a true scene.


I hurt my back in December, then hurt my hand in January. Today marks my return to Jessica’s intermediate ballet class as St. Mark’s Dance Studio in Capitol Hill.

Dawn goes straight from work to class, while I go home first and get the car. Going home first also gives me a chance to change clothes at home rather than at the studio. They don’t have a dressing room for men, only women, so I have to change in the men’s room downstairs. I’d rather change at home.

Got my hair cut today too.

Elie, Oprah, and Me

This news from a couple days ago, but apparently Oprah has chosen for her next book club Elie Wiesel’s Night, which I finished just a week or two ago. I’m currently reading The Accident, the third book in what the edition I’m reading collects as The Night Trilogy.

Not like I haven’t read an Oprah book before, though: White Oleander and Memoirs of a Geisha from our reading group at Arthur Andersen.

Good Morning

Monday was a good day for mattress delivery, it being the holiday and all.

The woman who sold us the set called Sunday night to say that we should expect the truck sometime between eight and eleven. They called Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. to say they were on their way, and the two guys with truck arrived right around nine.

I had brewed a pot of coffee especially for them, but actually they declined, opting for water instead. They clearly were in a hurry, practically running up the stairs with the box spring and bed frame first. It took a bit of twisting and turning to get up the winding stairs.

The foot part of our iron bed wouldn’t fit on the new frame they brought, so we had to swap it with the old frame that we had already set up in the guest bedroom. That took a little doing too.

Boy the bed is a lot taller now. Louise can look over the foot end without standing on her hind paws, and she now steps down rather neatly onto my nightstand rather than having to leap to and from it.

And comfy, too. Yup, good morning. Nice restful sleep last night.

And One More Thing

About that reading from the Gospel of John.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them,”Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.

I love love love that specificity in John. It was about four in the afternoon. It must be true, he seems to say, because I even know what time of day it happened.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

No choir at Mass. I think they’re off until Lent.

The Old Testament reading was one of my favorites. From 1 Samuel, where the Lord is calling Samuel and Samuel thinks it’s Eli, and Eli is all shut up and let me sleep, kid. I always think of this scene when I’m in the shower and Dawn comes in the bathroom and I say, “Dawn, is that you?” and she replies, “Here I am.”

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.

I never noticed before, but I like how, for the three times Samuel thinks it’s Eli calling him, the text simply describes that the Lord is calling for Samuel. Then, after Eli tells Samuel that it’s the Lord calling him, it reads:

[T]he LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”

I’m not sure why I like this particular point, but I do. We don’t read the Lord calling out Samuel’s actual name until Samuel is ready, until Samuel understands just who is calling him.

And speaking of names, the Gospel is from John, where Peter, still named Simon, meets Jesus for the first time.

Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” .- which is translated Peter.

Why does Christ re-name him? (In a way it’s kind of a funny scene — What? Your name is Simon? Um, no, not going to work. Let me see. Rufus? No. Stanley? Greg? Dirk? Wait, wait, I’ve got it. Peter!) I asked Monsignor after Mass, and he said that it is emblematic of the big change that’s taking place, the new covenant, a whole new set of rules.

That certainly makes sense. But also we can look at this passage from Matthew:

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…

Notice that Jesus refers to him by his name, Simon, but says that, because of such and such, he is Peter. He is the rock.

So that makes me look back to the passage from John and note that Christ says not “I hereby name you” or “I will call you” but rather “[Y]ou will be called” Peter. Simon will be called the rock.

I have to think about this some more.


Dawn and I stopped by Mattress Discounters on Saturday morning and bought a new mattress set. After discovering our comfort, we chose neither the tight top nor the pillow top, but the soft top. Then, among the soft tops, we chose the Simmons Beautyrest from the Spa Collection.

We then arranged for delivery for the following Monday, after plunking down eleven-hundred dollars. This puts the mattress and box spring set into the prestigious category of most expensive item in the house. Yes, more than the washer and dryer. About twice as expensive as the refrigerator.

It’s of course hard to compare such things, but I have to note that in 2001 and 2002, in my apartment at Columbia Plaza, I was sleeping quite contentedly on a $60 futon.

From Today’s First Reading: You will complain against the king whom you have chosen

1 Samuel 8:10-18

Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full to those who were asking him for a king.

He told them: “The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot.

He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.

He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers.

He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials.

He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.

He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work.

He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.

When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you.”

Night and Day

Oddly enough, I’ve been reading Elie Wiesel this month.

From Night: [arrival at Birkenau]

Suddenly, someone threw his arms around my neck in an embrace: Yechiel, brother of the rabbi of Sighet. He was sobbing bitterly. I thought he was weeping with joy at still being alive.
“Don’t cry, Yechiel,” I said. “Don’t waste your tears. . . .”
“Not cry? We’re on the threshold of death. . . . Soon we shall have crossed over. . . . Don’t you understand? How could I not cry?”

From Dawn: [Gad’s indoctrination speech on Movement ideology during terrorist instruction]

” … We can rely only on ourselves. If we must become more unjust and inhuman than those who have been unjust and inhuman to us, then we shall do so. We don’t like to be bearers of death; heretofore we’ve chosen to be victims rather than executioners. The commandment Thou shall not kill was given from the summit of one of the mountains here in Palestine, and we were the only ones to obey it. But that’s all over; we must be like everybody else. Murder will be not our profession but our duty. In the days and weeks and months to come you will have only one purpose: to kill those who have made us killers. We shall kill in order that once more we may be men. . . .”


I see in the news that our facility at Guantanamo is now four years old.

I call it a concentration camp.

I understand that this is controversial, calling it a concentration camp. My brother especially objects to any such characterization, any such comparison to Dachau or Auschwitz. But I do so deliberately.

I also do so almost comfortably. I certainly am no scholar of the Shoah, but I have read a book or two. From Anne Frank to Miep Gies, to the Art Spiegelman Maus books, to Martin Gilbert’s The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War. Okay, so I didn’t finish The War Against the Jews by Lucy Dawidowicz, but I did read Treblinka by Jean-Francois Steiner; Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka by Yitzhak Arad; and The Theory and Practice of Hell by Eugen Kogon. I made it through the utterly overwhelming Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust by Yaffa Eliach.

I think I understand that there were differences among the various camps operated and controlled by the Nazis. Some were to concentrate prisoners in one place, some were to organize prisoners as laborers, and some were simply to exterminate people. Some camps were all three.

Strictly speaking, the original Auschwitz facility was a concentration camp. Later they added Birkenau, the extermination camp. There was also a separate labor camp. Dachau was from 1933 to 1941 a concentration camp, after 1941 becoming the death camp.

And but so I maintain that Guantanamo is a concentration camp.

And yes, okay, Guantanamo is not nearly as bad as Auschwitz. I’ll grant you that. But is that the best we can do? Only a few hundred have been imprisoned? Only a few dozen have been tortured? Only a handful have been killed? That’s not so bad, then, compared to the millions of Jews.

This is progress?

Planche M.A.C. Board

Dawn and I have been watching Wonderfalls on DVD from Netflix lately. I really like it.Basically it revolves around one Jaye Tyler, who is either delusional or a prophet of some sort. Small objects speak to her. Small animal objects: a wax lion, plush toys, lawn flamingos, a cartoon buffalo on an apron, etc. They tell her, somewhat elliptically, to do or not do certain things, which things lead to hijinks, coincidences, and bad things that turn out in the end to be good things.

I’m glad that the show does not shy away from the heavily religious implications of its premise, by the way. Well, sometimes the show deals rather heavy-handedly with the religious implications, but better that than ignoring them.

Anyway, what with coincidences and bad things/good things, remember that printer that Dad and Sharon gave me that I had also gotten the day before? And how I felt bad about it? Well, right before I left, Sharon pressed into my hand a $90 check, in lieu of said printer. And then the next day I was reading a woodworking book that Rob & Carol had given me at the very same Christmas celebration at Dad & Sharon’s. The book is Your First Workshop by Aimé Ontario Fraser, and it’s really great, by the way.

And in the book Ms. Fraser shows this jig for a circular saw for crosscuts and miters, and it’s so way totally cool. I looked at it and immediately saw that it would be perfect for router use as well. Perfect, I tell you. And here I had some Christmas money to spend, on this perfect gift that I didn’t even know had existed until just this very moment.

It should arrive tomorrow. I’m very excited.


Happy 96th Birthday, Nana!

Walburga Kolinski was born in Toledo OH on January 10, 1910. She married Edward Wojtkowiak in 1932. Eddie and Wally adopted Judy Jaworski, born in 1939, and re-named her Patricia.

Patricia Wojtkowiak married Robert Bohls in 1960. They had three children: Marianne, born in 1961; Robert Jr., born in 1963; and Edward, born in 1964.

My understanding is that my sister Main had trouble at some precious young age articulating grandpa and grandma, coming up instead with Papa and Nana. These are, of course, not uncommon nicknames for grandparents.

Nana once described herself to me as a hillbilly farmer. Their house included a corner grocery store, the floors of which we were never allowed as kids to walk on barefoot. Papa and Nana owned and ran the store, and Papa was a butcher as well. Later, probably driven out of business by the arrival of supermarkets, Papa worked for a tobacco and candy distributor.

Nana could cook, man. I’ve never ever found pierogis like she used to make. She also used to send us boxes and boxes of Christmas cookies every year.

She died suddenly in 1993. She and Papa had moved in with my mother, staying in the bedroom that we still call the Pink Room. Nana passed away in bed in her room on August 19, 1993.

I think of her often when I recite the Hail Mary. I don’t exactly remember or know where or when it would have been, but I guess she must have helped me learn it. It seemed somewhat spooky and scary to me, the pray for us “at the hour of our death” business.

I should have asked her to teach it to me in Polish too, now that I think about it.

Zdrowas Maryjo,
laskis pelna, Pan z Toba.
Blogoslawionas Ty miedzy
niewiastami i blogoslawiony owoc
zywota Twojego – Jezus.
Swieta Maryjo, Matko Boza,
modl sie za nami grzesznymi,
teraz i w godzine smierci naszej,

We love you, Nana. And miss you.

More on the Saw

Looking more closely into this, I have to say that what the website says about the saw vs. what the saw actually is, well, there’s some confusion here.

The saws were on sale at Woodcraft precisely because Spear & Jackson were fiddling around changing their models, so I shouldn’t have relied on the info from S&J like I did. Or at least I should have understood that just because they look similar, are the same colors, etc., they are not in fact what I bought.

The blue saw that I was using, that looks like but is not exactly the one pictured in the earlier entry, is not a coarse finish but a standard finish. But it’s still an aggressive cutting tool. The red is the universal, the blue is the xpress.

Oh, and it’s eight points, not ten. (7 ppi, not 9).

So, yeah, a 7 ppi saw with fleam? Cuts your hypothenar muscle group like butter.

Monday Sudoku

So they’re like really easy on Mondays, I guess. Took all of five minutes and thirty-six second.

It started out with thirty-six squares already filled in. That’s almost half, fer cryin’ out loud. Why even bother?

Christmas at Dad’s

We went out to eat with Dad and Sharon, to their favorite restaurant, Paradiso. Dad had the capaesant gratinia and I had the misto di mare. Both dishes had scallops. Dawn and Erin and I shared a bottle of Monte di Torre Pinot Grigio.

Rob hates immigrants who work at McDonald’s and don’t learn English. They apparently don’t know how to toast the muffin of an Egg McMuffin correctly.

I had an awful awkward moment when I opened one gift and it was the same printer that Marianne and John and Erin had given me the day before. Sharon and Main had both bought it off Amazon from my Wish List, but something went wrong. I felt so bad for Dad and Sharon. It’s an expensive and generous gift and I felt like I was disappointing them by already having received it.

Although it’s a sweet sweet piece o’ computer accessory. I had stayed up late the night before setting it up. Dawn and I haven’t had a working printer in months, so it’s a big improvement over the status quo. Plus it’s a copier and scanner. And it’s fast and quiet.

Dad and Sharon also quite generously gave me the Palm Z22 PDA that I was wanting. My Handspring Visor is really old and I’m worried it’s going to die any minute now. I keep so much information in that thing. An old girlfriend of mine used to refer to her purse as her ‘life,’ because everything she needed was in there. I think of that when I think of my old Handspring Visor. Hell, it was like one of the first gifts another old girlfriend, Erin Sellman, gave me, and we broke up in 2001. I think she gave it to me for my birthday in 1999, so it’s coming up on 7 years old.

The biggest treat of the day was getting to see my Dad’s paintings. He’s been learning to oil paint for the last couple of years, but I’d never before seen any of his work. He showed us his little studio in the basement with like a dozen works. Mostly they were studies on paper. But one was a terrific seascape on canvas that he said was his first painting. I figure if that one was his first, then he’s going to do some great stuff. And he says that he’s doing it so he’ll have something to give his children, so I’m all excited about having a painting done by my father.

Actually, something of both an inspiration for him as well as maybe a burden is a painting he has done by his father. It’s a landscape done in watercolors and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s signed and dated, the date being the year 1924, so my grandfather painted it when he was 12. So on the one hand my father treasures this, but on the other hand it’s so unbelievably well done that I would find it incredibly intimidating.

Although I suppose it’s similar to the way that I think of my grandfather when I’m working on the house or making something in the woodshop. Grandpa built his own house and was a master craftsman, and I’ll never be able to do his level of work. But I’m happy being able to do what I can do. My father is confident in what he’s doing and having fun doing it and wanting to learn more, so I’m happy for him.

Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord

Most days the readings all tie together somehow, most Sundays anyway. But I love on feast days when they really go all out to tie the anticipation of the OT with a Gospel reading and then throw in the yummy goodness of a Pauline epistle that strikes home as well. Today was just such a home run.

The first reading is from good old reliable Isaiah.

[A]ll from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

A great reading for Epiphany, what with Matthew for the Gospel.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

But I especially like the tying it all up with Paul from Ephesians.

It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Luke and the shepherds notwithstanding, the first to recognize the Messiah are foreigners. The Magi are from Persia or wherever. They of course stand in for us nowadays. We are all foreigners bringing our gifts to Him.

(Also fun to note is that, in his homily, Cardinal McCarrick explained that he liked to think that, despite the popular image of the wise men with the holy family in the stable, Joseph likely had found some better accomodations for himself and the wife and kid by the time the Magi arrived. He likes to think Joseph was a good manager.

And, heck, Matthew does say that they saw Mary and the child on entering the house. No stable by then. A house.)

Christmas at Mom’s

Finally celebrated Christmas with Mom and family.

What with the fractured family of divorces, we’ve always had multiple celebrations at Christmastime. Mostly it stems from the divorces where children were involved, specifically my parents and my sister. My sister Marianne’s daughter, and my niece, Erin has historically spent Christmas day with her dad and her half-sisters. Then she and Main would come down from New Jersey to stay with Mom and we’d celebrate Christmas usually on the Saturday following Christmas. Then we’d have Christmas with Dad on Sunday.

So most years on actual Christmas Day I’d be at a wife’s or girlfriend’s parents. But this year Dawn decided to spend Thanksgiving with her folks instead of Christmas. This was partly to offset the multiple Christmases, that come with being married to me, that are admittedly a little exhausting. Plus this year my brother and his wife didn’t really have the time off and Erin I think had New Year’s Eve plans.

So anyway, we ended up celebrating Epiphany this year. And it was fun.

It’s likely the last Christmas in my Mom’s house in Springfield, as she’s trying to sell it and move to Florida. It was a little odd because her doberman Rolfie died, gosh, before last Christmas even. Plus, since she’s trying to sell it, she’s not smoking inside, and she broke up with Bill so he’s not there smoking and Rob & Carol both quit smoking. So there was nobody smoking, which was good because it bothers Dawn so much. And I’ve been quit so long now that I’m starting really not like it.

Something was wrong with the upstairs toilet. It was knocking weirdly after flushing, like the inlet pipe was banging against the wall or something. John apparently fiddled with it later and fixed it. And Mom said that the washing machine’s hot water inlet hose was blocked with calcium deposits, but Rob couldn’t unscrew the hose from the bibb to fix it. I should have brought my basin wrench.

Mom made these ginormous stuffed pork chops. Normally I’m veggie with Dawn, but I had one, partly out of a When-in-Rome kinda attitude and mostly because they were delicious. Mom didn’t have one. She doesn’t eat much. I’m worried about her.

The Saw

This is what saw I was using on Monday, the one I used to cut my hand. It’s a Spear & Jackson hardpoint saw, twenty-two inches long and 10 pts (meaning 9 points-per-inch), further described thusly:

For the fastest cutting across the grain on both the forward and return strokes with a coarse finish.

Note that it was my understanding at the time that it was a rip saw. That’s what it said on the tag from the store where I bought it and that’s what I was doing with it. Ripping.

Not that it matters that much, really, but the other saw I had bought that morning was the one I should have been using. Although it was designated by the store tag as a crosscut saw, in actuality, according to Spear & Jackson, it’s a universal saw, for both ripping and crosscutting. More importantly, it doesn’t cut on the return stroke. And it produces a standard, not coarse, finish.

Let’s just go ahead and stipulate that I would have cut my hand anyway. Likely, though, the cut wouldn’t have been so severe, is maybe the point here.

But if we’re looking to assign any blame, it’d still have to be all mine mine all mine. Although the store tag said “rip,” the cardboard cover, on the saw I was using for ripping, clearly says “fleam” on it. And of course, rip saws have no fleam. Crosscut saws do.


So, while technically true that neither saw I had that day was a rip saw, the universal saw would have been a smarter choice over the fleam saw.