Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farewell, good saw

If I may, I would just like to offer a bit of free advice to all my fellow do-it-yourselfers out there: when using a mitre saw, always clamp it to the workbench.
How did I acquire this handy bit of information having never taken a carpentry course in my life? Let's just call it life experience.
I was rebuilding two panel doors for our aging hot tub (and when I say aging I mean it still has the coal shoot leading down to the boiler) and I only had a few cuts to make so in an effort to save time I simply placed the saw on the bench and got on with the job.
Of course the time I saved was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 seconds or so, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. (I am not positive, but I am pretty sure those were Custer's last words.)
So without the aid of a C-clamp, I took a few careful measurements and began turning long pieces of wood into short pieces of wood.
Everything went very well, with each cut measuring near perfect. For me this is a major feat.
My wife summed it up the best, “As a carpenter, you are a good reporter.”
I used to be measurement challenged. For some reason what I measured never seemed to be what I needed.
There is the old saying, “Measure twice and cut once,” well, I took it to a new level by measuring twice, cutting, saying bad words, getting another piece of wood, measuring and cutting again. I would repeat the process until I actually cut the length I wanted.
As the years progressed, my measuring and cutting became much more accurate and many trees were spared. The upside of not being able to measure was I always had a supply of firewood at the ready.
I also got to spend time working with power tools and, c'mon, what man doesn't enjoy that.
This day however, would turn out to be a sad day for tools.
I had finished building the door panels, using my beloved mitre saw for the cuts and my air nailer to put all the wood together when I decided they needed a little reinforcing.
Like I said, the job was done, but being a man I wanted to make it better and stronger. I wanted these panels to be able to withstand a nuclear blast.
I debated briefly if I should just let finished panels lie, but I had some wood left over, some time on my hands and a whole bunch of power tools sitting around waiting to be used.
My air compressor chugged away as it filled the tank with air, begging me to do some nailing.
To do that, I would need more little pieces of wood. I did several measurements and began cutting to the desired length.
All was going well. The sawdust was flying, the saw was making the noise that saws make and I was quite content interacting with my implements of construction.
The reinforcing was going splendidly, but I decided I needed just one more piece to finish the job.
I probably could have lived without the last board, but I figured “What the heck, one more cut can't hurt.”Now remember my beloved compound mitre saw was not clamped to the workbench and after making the final cut I brought the handle to the upright position at which point my beloved mitre saw flipped off the table and went crashing to the ground.
It did a complete 180 in the air before landing on the plastic handle which proceeded to explode with the force of that nuclear bomb I was talking about.
I picked up six pieces of the handle and realized my beloved mitre saw had gone to the great tool shed in the sky.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Help, I have teenagers

A friend of mine summed it up very well with two simple words: teenagers suck.That statement was uttered after a particularly endearing conversation with his own teenager that was influenced by the teen's knowledge his parents are the dumbest creatures to ever walk the planet.
All I could do was smile and nod, because I have two teens of my own.
When you first have kids it is all “Goo-goo, gaa-gaa” and “Aren't you cute.” The single-digit years are filled with amazement as you watch your spawn grow and do all these wonderful things.
During those first few years, your sproggs also think you are the coolest, strongest and “bestest” person in the whole wide world. They want to hang out with you and in general enjoy being by your side.
I have found that once the teen years hit, it is good to reflect on those younger years as it helps calm the urge to send them to military school – in Siberia.
When they hit the double-digit years for a while anyway they are still pretty much the same kids they have been for the past decade, but there are dark clouds brewing on the horizon, so enjoy it while you can, because once they hit 13 a switch gets flipped and your bundle of joy turns into a monstrous raging ball of out-of-control hormones with long hair and a bad attitude.
It is like someone put a troll in a Junior suit and sent him to live in my house.
A very hungry troll I might add.
I would just like to caution everyone not to get between a teenager and any type of food product. Doing so could result in injury or harm. I liken it to trying to pull a kitten away from a deranged, rabid pitbull, only the pitbull would have better table manners and eventually the pitbull would be full.
It is also around this age they realize they know everything there is worth knowing in the entire world and us “old people” should listen to their wise words of wisdom because doing so would make life a whole lot easier for everyone.
Teens also have “the look” to go with this new-found self awareness of their blossoming brilliance. Every parent of a teen, boy or girl, has been the recipient of “the look.”
This is a facial expression only a teen can truly pull off and it says one thing, “You are dumb and I am not.”
I do not know anyone with a teen who has not been a recipient of “the look.”
I am not a hostile man in any capacity, but “the look” pushes a deep dark button inside of me that makes me want to go caveman.
You also cannot tell teens a blessed thing. They either already know it, or have decided it is not important enough to be bothered with.
A friend of mine has a cute little girl who is around a year old and being their first they were still in the gushy-mooshy stage of parenting. She would say how sweet the little one is and tell me of the cute thing she is doing.
All I could do is smile. I would relay stories about living with a teen and the doubting look on her face showed she felt her bundle of joy would never turn into a troll with a 'tude.
Once again that smile would cross my face.
“You'll see, oh yes, you will see.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

What else is on?

It was a strangely quiet week at home. A week where the house was silent, where wailing guitars, ringing phones and the constant noise of video games and TV shows were absent.
You see, my wife took the kids and her mom to a wedding in Saskatchewan, leaving me to fend for myself. It was hard, but I dug down deep and did my best to survive a whole week without the chaos of having the kids and all of their friends running around.
The first few days were Nirvana, er, um, I mean it was lonely and I missed them a lot. Sure it was kind of nice not having constant noise, or a mother-in-law calling 386 times a day and there were actually a few leftovers in the fridge, but it was rough and I had to knuckle up and tough it out.
The weirdest part of the entire week was I did not lose the remote for the TV even once.
Not once did I spend half the evening looking for the infernal contraption that allows me to change channels at lightning speed from the comfort of my couch.
Constantly seeing what else is on the boob tube is hardwired into man's genetic make up. Back in the caveman days, our great (and I would imagine smelly) family leader would get a fire going for his brood and would then spend the evening poking it with a stick, moving the logs around etc. which is the caveman version of changing channels.
When TV was introduced, more modern (and hopefully less smelly) family leaders flipped through a couple of channels, but was not obsessed with knowing what is on the next channel – yet.
However, as more channels were added, the more man needed to know what else was on.
Back in the early days of TV, man would have to get off the couch to change the channel, and depending on how strong his desire was to see what else was on, it could be a pretty good workout. Some less athletic men would simply sit close enough to the TV to change the channels without having to leave the comfort of their Lazy Boy.
Then, a great thing happened. It was a day men around the world hailed as one of the greatest technological breakthroughs of the human race. Sure they put a man on the moon and have made medical advances that prolong life, but this was an epic moment that will forever be held high in the lore of human history: the remote control was invented.
What a glorious day that was. Early remote controls had a cable that was just long enough to reach the couch. It was crude technology, but at last man could flip channels to his heart's desire with only the movement of the thumb.
Of course, people would trip over the cable running through the middle of the livingroom, ripping the remote from man's hand causing a spasm, but the next breakthrough was soon to come in the form of a wireless remote.
Channel changing utopia had been reached. No more cables, just man and TV living in harmony. Little did man know the stress such a device would wreak upon the land.
The problem with remotes is they tend to fall between couch cushions, or under magazines, or in other less obvious places causing man to search frantically for the little electric friend. It is a scene played out countless times a day throughout the free world. Only now that man has become dependent on the wireless contraption has its true evil been revealed.
Of course, man could always just pick one show and watch that without the need for a remote, but where's the fun in that.
And don't even get me started on picture in picture.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Painfully dumb move

I know, and you are right, it was a dumb idea.
I also know I will have to narrow that down a little as I have more dumb ideas than a politician (if that's possible).
The dumb idea in question was from a few years back when I took my kids to a local skateboard park.
No, I did not jump on a skateboard after a 25-year absence and hurt myself - that would be really dumb.
Instead, I threw on my in-line skates and hurt myself.
While the kids were rolling along doing all sorts of neat little tricks, I was calmly skating my way around the outer perimeter of the skateboard park.
I watched as they went up the quarter pipe and down and around and thought, “That doesn't look so hard.”
I have been ice skating since I was about five years old, so I feel quite comfortable on in-line skates, and this is where the dumb idea began to form.
Slowly, I skated closer and closer to the quarter pipe, while my brain lied to me and told me I could do it.
“C'mon, you played hockey for years. You are a master on skates. What's the difference between ice or cement?” challenged that little red, horned guy on my shoulder.
“How tough can it be for a super jock like yourself. You can do it. Go for it stud.”
The white guy with the halo on the other shoulder was trying to offer a cautionary word or two, but the red guy was making such a convincing argument.
“C'mon big man, you can do it. Go up, go down, it will be great. People will be amazed at your skating ability, especially for such an old guy.”
By now I was feeling pretty darned good about my skating prowess and even in my late 30s I knew I possessed the skills of a life-long stunt skater.
“I can do it,” I thought.
The plan was to start slow. I would just go part-way up the ramp, turn and come back down.
No problem, I can do it.
Once I completed the little warm up stunt, I would graduate to more challenging moves and before you know it, I will be the oldest guy in the X Games.
I can do it.
Apparently I couldn't do it. In fact, I could not even come close to doing it. In fact, I only made it less than two feet up the ramp when I realized I should have listened to the little white dude with the halo, who was now sitting back with a rather smug look on his face.
I quickly learned the difference between skating on a nice flat sheet of ice, and in-line skating up a sloped ramp.
My leading skate hit the bottom of the half-pipe and decided it would be best to go north while the rear in-line skate went east sending my stunt south.
I also learned I do not bounce like I used to. Instead of bouncing off the ground, getting up and going again like I did as a young lad, I landed with a thump that held absolutely no bounce at all.
I didn't even slide or anything, just - WHAM – and down I was.
I got up and tried to look cool, which wasn't too hard because people (much younger people) were falling around the place all the time.
The truly hard part was not showing how much pain I was in. I had a bruise on my hip that covered roughly 48 per cent of my body.
That will happen when you thud rather than bounce.
The pain in my hip could have been a lot worse had I not used my wrist, elbow and shoulder to break the fall. Fortunately the fall was all that was broken that day.