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There's something wonderfully ironic about woodworking: while much of the art is concerned with producing straight edges and plane faces, much of the beauty of wood comes from the wiggliness of the grain. The worker strives for repeatable results while using one-of-a-kind pieces of material.

I am impressed by fine work done with hand tools. I have never gotten the hang of planing wood by hand. Had I been born way back when, I don't know how much I would've enjoyed woodworking.

The considerable time and skill required suggests that woodworking used to be a decidedly serious undertaking. Note the tone of this passage from a 1917 textbook, Essentials of Woodworking: disappointment will follow There's just no way you're going to heaven if you use sandpaper in lieu of good planing/sawing/chiseling technique. Equus ferus caballus

Why do dogs sniff people's crotches?
Because armpits are too far off the ground.

After Saturday's posting I've been deluged with email asking why I saved red wire for 35 years. (Just kidding.)

But seriously—
if I didn't,
what else would I use to keep the ends of bike cables from fraying.

I mean,
the crimp-on caps you can get from bike stores are not red.
red
did I mention red is my favorite color?
I seem to have done laundry without realizing I'd left a piece of sandpaper in a pants pocket A guy jumped into an animal enclosure at the Bronx Zoo yesterday, got an other-than-affectionate reception from a tiger, and wound up in the hospital (and in the news). When a police sergeant asked why he did it, he said, "Everyone in life makes choices." I wonder if that was improvised or whether he'd thought it up in advance. It is more succinct than an evasive answer I once gave to police and thus more memorable; brevity is the soul of wit.

My evasion story dates from when I was a teenager. I was by myself in a park, getting ready to clean resin out of a pipe, and failed to notice police driving up until they were maybe a hundred feet away. I hid what I'd been holding. By way of context, I note that this was in New York, which a few years earlier had gotten the bright idea that severe penalties were the way to deal with drugs.

The police asked me what I had just put in my pocket. I produced one of two objects I had hidden and said, "a wire".

"Where did it come from?" asked the police.

Rather than explaining that it was from a length of wire I had unwound from a choke to lower its inductance, I just said, "It didn't come from anywhere, officer—it's just a wire," and for some reason that satisfied them and they left me alone.

I still have a bunch of that wire. It's red, my favorite color. And I still have the pipe, although I don't partake anymore. shadowy photographer

Some day I'll post something other than mosaic artifacts—but not today.
From a panorama of the crowd at LAX welcoming the space shuttle. Apple prefers that you use their maps rather than, well, you‑know‑who's, which is interesting considering what their maps are like.

Because I continue to be easily amused, items from a tumblr of iOS 6 map images:
EnglandNevada
Google mapsBing maps
Aerial imagery as presented by various online map sites is a mosaic, subject to distortions and artifacts. A seam seems to be the cause of the unseemly-looking south face of the building shown in the first image. I get how a composite of two pics can show corners converging at incongruous angles, but it kills me that an entire window got edited out of existence. I wonder how much of the massaging at seams is automated and how much is done by hand.

I present these pics not just because I'm easily amused, but also because I once lived in said building—and indeed in the south-upper unit whose window got lost in the sauce.

That was the last of three addresses I lived at in San Francisco in the 1990s. When I was deciding whether or not to move to the desert, someone told me I could always move back if I didn't like it. Yeah but SF has rent control. After I moved out, the apartment rented for about 2.2 times what I had been paying. Good thing I ended up liking the desert. the light on the hill didn't last long Lone Pine, and indeed the world, lost a remarkable man last month. Everyone I know who knew Alex Saxton held him in high regard. When you have a moment, please read his obituary that appeared in the New York Times.

I considered blogging about the manner of Alex's death and how I and others responded to it, and although there is much to say about that I will now simply remember Alex as a friend and an inspiration and say that I miss him.

And as I like to quote memorable fragments of conversations, I offer this exchange from an evening at a friend's house some 14 years ago:
host:Here I am trying to practice unconditional love toward everyone, and someone like Kenneth Starr comes along.
Alex:I think there have to be some limits to unconditional love.
This afternoon, from a conversation with a climbing buddy:
Tommy:I had a weird nightmare last night. It was abstract. Someone was recruiting people to join together and lose their identities in becoming a larger organism.
friend:That sounds like they're making something bigger and better.
Tommy:No. They were becoming something like slime. Why you'd stop being human to become that, I don't know.
friend:It is Facebook, then.
From the Wikipedia thickness planer article:
In order to achieve a board that is flat and of uniform thickness along its length, it is necessary to start with a board that has at least one perfectly flat reference face.  ...  The reference face is often created by first passing the board over a jointer.
If only. The jointer article's description of how to straighten bowed and twisted boards will leave you thinking, who are they kidding.

I'd much rather glue the not-so-flat piece between two thicker pieces of cheap but straight wood, which you saw off after planing the whole sandwich. It is an enduring mystery to me why this method isn't commonly given in the thickness planer literature.
walnut glued between pieces of lesser wood
And if the cheap pieces are longer than the not-so-flat piece, that solves the problem of snipe (snipe is limited to the overhangs that you cut off). One web page would have you believe that wood supports "level with the planer table" will cure snipe. They might, if you have one of those nice flat reference faces to start with.

Or they might not. As another web page has it:
Keep in mind that in some cases,
no matter what you do,
snipe will be a fact of life.
Does that have the ring of truth, or what. Even if you've never heard of a thickness planer or snipe before, when you read that you just know you're in the presence of wisdom.