Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Certain Age

I’ve noticed that when you get to be a certain age, around 55 for me, people start asking you interesting questions.

When I changed employers at that age and let people in my network know my new contact information, one of my contacts asked, “So, is this a real job or are you just coasting to retirement.” Later, after moving to a new job at age 57, one of my former colleagues found me on LinkedIn. His comment, “I thought you’d be retired by now.” Or dead! Last weekend celebrating Chinese New Year with friends of friends (who are retired), I was asked, “So, are you retired?” It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that over the last couple of years.

Sometimes the question comes because we’re hanging around people who are retired or are contemplating retirement in the near future. Sometimes the question comes because Marcia has decided to retire this year. But sometimes the question must arise because I look like I should be retired.

A friend at church was telling me about some experiences with Exploritas – the new name for Elderhostel. When I asked the age for participation (because every time I’ve asked about a senior citizen discount since turning 50, it’s always my current age plus five years), the reply was, “Don’t worry, you’re old enough.” The next step will be for people to start telling me how good I look. Then I’ll know I’m ready for the rest home.

For most of my adult life, I’ve had a drive to work. When, at age 55, the company I was working for was sold, I wasn’t ready to retire – not just financially, but psychologically. I was ready for the next big thing. Like for most my adult life, work was still central. No more.

Although, I’m still not ready to hang up my spurs, lately the concept of working for a living seems surreal. Other than to provide a living, just why do we do work anyway? Why is it so darn important? And why do we (well, why do I), from time to time, get caught up in the exaggerated importance and drama of it all?

Don’t get me wrong, in these economic times, I’m grateful for employment. And I still enjoy what I’m doing for which I’m also grateful. It’s just that work is no longer central.

I’m still not ready to graduate from the employment world – psychologically or financially – so my plan is not to contemplate these questions too deeply for the next seven years. But I can see a transition happening. I can see work become a means to an end versus the end itself it’s been for me until recently. I can see the possibility of meaning beyond meaningful work. And I’m surprised by all of this.

Interesting how we change, isn’t it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

If you don't look too closely...

...these look fine. Here are the finished ten end-grain cutting boards. The one at the top and the one at the bottom you've seen before. They are number one and two, respectively. The ones in the middle are from the batch process when I did eight at once.

Here's a closer (but not too close) look at the family starting from the bottom of the above photo and working toward the top.

As I was making the second round of cuts after the final glue-up, a bearing on my table saw froze and made it go hay-wire. This left saw marks on the final cuts, which attracted glue. The plan was to sand it all away to perfection.

Little did I know how hard it is to sand glue and saw marks off end-grain wood. After six hours of sanding the batch of eight, I threw in the towel. The result was some glue, saw marks and sanding marks on this batch.

I like the resulting patterns and wood combinations -- various combinations of purple heart, rock maple, cherry, sapele and two expensive strips ($24 worth) of asian pear. But close inspection will tell that they were human-made -- by a less than perfect member of the species.

Oh, well they should last a long time, and as they are used and re-sanded (by someone else!), they will just get better.

That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

Now, I'm out of the wood business until the back-ordered table saw parts come. I'm ready for a break!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Great Moments In Communication

When there's an historic advance in communications technology, frequently, memorable words are said. For example, not far from here in 1844 the first telegraph message was sent. The message? "What hath God wrought?"

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, sent his first telephone message. "Watson, come here, I want you." Not profound, but memorable.

Recently, my wife signed up for Skype. I already had it on my machine. We each have a study at opposite ends of the house, so this offered us a breakthrough in communication technology over our current technology of yelling.

With the eyes of history and the burden of memorable words upon me, I answered the first room to room Skype call in my house. My words? "Hey this is neat...bring me a beer!"


As I said, there's probably more glue than wood in these cutting boards. To see what I mean, here's board #7 in its second (final) glue-up.

It's pretty messy business, but I've gotten a lot neater at it with practice.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

End Grain Cutting Board, Continued

With a big snow storm coming our way, most people run to the store for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. I did a store run myself today, not for milk and bread, but for for five gallons of kerosene and a gallon of glue. The kerosene's to fuel my wood shop space heater. The glue's to keep my cutting board production line going. Here's completed number two:

And here's number three in it's first glue up. As you can see by the film on the wood, there's almost as much glue as wood in these things.

Here's number four -- glued up last night:

Here's number five glued up tonight.

Here are six through ten, awaiting clamps to be freed.

It took about 33 board feet of lumber for these ten boards and will probably take a quart of glue. It also produced a lot of expensive sawdust to mill the lumber to spec -- enough to fill a 45 gallon trash bag. And that doesn't even include the sawdust I inhaled!