Sippican Cottage

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Many Thanks

My Intertunnel friends sure are swell.

We’re grateful to everyone that reads, and comments, and corresponds, and to everyone that’s purchased a copy of my book, and purchased my Maine-made cottage furniture, and thrown my minstrel boys some coins, and people that have used the Amazon links on this page. Your friendship and support have meant the world to me and my family.

Our friends at 32 Degrees North sent our boys two beautiful Advent calendars. The little feller especially is a calendar freak, and they both enjoy the old-fashioned thrill of turning over the flaps on the way to Christmas. Thanks for being kind to my boys! Everyone should go over to their Intershop and grab everything before they run out of Christmas. Nice people should buy things from other nice people. And it wouldn’t kill you to read her blog, either: Daughter of the Golden West.

It snowed last night, and when I made a fire this morning it was 10 degrees outside, so we’re thinking of visiting Santa at his place because it might be warmer there.

Who’s Gonna Let It Roll? Unorganized Hancock, Of Course

My boys are making their way through their list of requests. Here’s one for my friend Bird Dog over at the aptly named Maggie’s Farm: Bob Dylan’s Minstrel Boy. Got good taste in everything but friends, that guy does.

If you’d like to throw our minstrel boys a coin, there’s a PayPal button at the top of the right column. Any amount over a buck will work. Many thanks to everyone that gave already; we’ve purchased a PA system for the boys that will arrive later this week. No more singing through a bass amp!

[Update: Thanks, Karen M.(via mail!) and Lorraine! Thanks, Kathleen! Thanks Cynthia!] Up-update: Thanks, Michael, for your coins and your kind words]

I Have A Friend

I work with my hands all day but I rarely injure them. A long time ago I wearied of hurting myself in minor ways and began to keep a lookout for things that might bite me on the way through my palms. I thought it was a sign of foolishness to willingly submit to the abrasion of the hands while working until they felt like curbstones. One does not have to work dumb to work hard. But who of us is perfect?

It was nothing, really. My hands are cold and so made ten percent clumsy and I have a headache and it’s only in the forties in here and the board passes along your hand as you feed it and it leaves its tiny child in the meat of your thumb. It’s too small to pluck back out — small enough to be entirely subsumed in the flesh. I won’t dig it out. It will throb a bit for a week or so, and then be forgotten. It is my friend.

It doesn’t want anything of me. It only gives. It reminds you constantly, just a gentle sussurus of discomfort whispered lovingly into my ear via my thumb: Look out! Remember. 

It’s the only advice worth a damn. Everyone’s full of advice. Advice generally should be taken by the giver. It’s information that suits them, after all. The board didn’t have any advice beforehand. It showed me something. It is equally mute now. The splinter sticks by me.

I got lots of advice when I caught the poverty. I got it from people that I figure would lay down and die if they were in my place. They are clarks and tollbooth operators and sleep at work whether their eyes are open or not, and wonder aloud why I didn’t just find a featherbed like they did. What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you find one now?

They shun us, now. It’s not in the front of their head, it’s way in the reptile back, but the decision is the same: They might catch the poverty from us. Best find a way to forget our phone number. You knew it well enough when you needed things from us. But now we must be lonely because it is the only way others can deal with it.

The splinter isn’t just a companion. He is a good friend. He talks to me about important matters. Life, death, pain, resolution, patience, risk — even kindness, because the same machine that delivered a sliver can take a finger; a limb; a life. But it can deliver a living, too, if you learn to get along with it.

I’d be all alone more than I’d like without this little bit of pinus strobus. I know he’ll stay with me until I don’t need him anymore, and then he’ll go. He won’t make a big deal of leaving, either; one day I’ll just notice that my thumb used to hurt, and now it doesn’t.

I always remember kindnesses paid to me. I’ll remember every splinter.

Tuesday’s Just As Bad

Albert King, “The Velvet Bulldozer,” along with Gary Moore. Just a couple of years before Albert died.

It’s easy to get confused about the relative importance of musicians if you’re a regular ol’ consumer of music. Gary Moore could play Albert King better than Albert could. Lots of people could. Hendrix could. SRV and his brother could. So what? A minimum-wage worker can sit in a factory and make a light bulb better than Edison, or Swan, ever could.

Someone has to invent this stuff.

Hope Street


Can you tell me the way to Hope Street?

They tell me the road to hope is long, and fraught with peril, sir.

(Stunned silence. A moment of recognition. Wry smile.)

Yes, but at least it’s paved now.

The cobbles are made from the hearts of damp policemen, sir. They are only mortared loosely with good intentions.

You have the gun, so I defer to your judgment. The way?

Go back up the hill and turn right, if you want to find Hope. Abandon hope, all ye who stand here in the middle of the street with a policeman in the sleet.

Would you like a cup of coffee, officer?

What I would like is a gold-plated Republican job and a roast turkey with a side order of another roast turkey, and a whiskey and an upholstered woman with a fireplace and access to more whiskey, thank you. But I’ll settle for a cup of coffee, if that’s what you meant.

I’ll need to cross the street to get it. Will you stop the traffic?

Sir, I’ll hold them here until the ammo runs out, then go hand to hand with the stragglers, if you’ll bring a sinker with the joe.

Done, and done.

Are those your lawyers, sir?

Spring is coming, officer, if we keep this up.

Go! I’ll cover you.

Ancient Essays People Are Reading For Some Reason: Life Is Accumulated Error

[Editor’s Note: From 2007]
[Author’s Note: There is no editor]

Our Intertunnel friend Patrick down south in the Red Stick State is making a table. He’s asked a question, and it was bound to bring on that ol’ Sippican logorrhea, mostly off-topic. Here’s the question:

Now, since you’ve offered advice upon the seeking of it, how does one make all the legs on a little table come out the same size? I clamped mine together in sawing and making the dadoes and everything so they’d all be the same height and have the shelves at the same spot and everything, and one leg still came out shorter than the rest (I suspect warpage). Do I just keep sanding the others until they’re evened out?

This is interesting as all get-out. We have encountered the confounding and somewhat counterintuitive “Accumulated Error.”

There is a long and boring explanation of accumulated error regarding mathematics, science, and especially lately, economics and climate prediction. We need not trouble ourselves with that here, as we begin with our eyes glazed over from hunching over the tablesaw. No need to keep basting them.

What we are referring to is well known to the man who must measure over and over again. If I measure a foot with a ruler, and make a mark, and then measure again from that mark, and then again for a while, certain dreadful things can begin to happen. First, after about 36 tries, I’ll be outside, and it’s snowing, and I don’t want to go there. But more to the point, if I am making an error — say, the ruler is a little off –and then I continue remaking that error, while using my last erroneous point to start making my next mistake, things can get really bad, really quick. I said “can” get bad, but that’s just an expression. They “do” get bad, and you get fired or not paid, and so forth. And the table you made lists to port. What’s happening?

Eisenhower might be the most able executive we ever had as chief magistrate. He said: “A plan is nothing; planning is everything.” He understood accumulated error. You have to take into account the vagaries of constant changes.

Now, back to our table. It wobbles. Patrick is downcast. We must help.

First, Patrick, you’re very cheeky to just make four legs and expect them to turn out alright. A professional wouldn’t figure he’d have any sort of success doing that, and make fourteen or so, hoping to get three good ones and one that don’t look that bad in firelight. The firelight is generally cast from a lovely blaze in your wintertime fireplace, made from the other ten legs. But you are brave, and do the crossword in pen, and we must help you.

They are all a little different. You tried, but wood is not steel, and you are not a machinist. Your pencil marks waxed and waned in thickness, and the angle of your head when reading the markings on tools and measuring instruments went back and forth like a bent metronome — hell, the humidity changed and your wood decided it wanted to be closer to the size it was when the birds were chirping in it last week. You are accumulating errors, and you don’t know how many ways that material and those tools and your own efforts will betray you yet. Wood only really expands or contracts across its grain, so table legs and so forth don’t really get longer and shorter. A dry pine board 11 inches wide might gain or lose 1/8″ in width in a week, but a 12 foot long board won’t gain 1/8″ in length. Tabletops move all around. Legs don’t do it much.

Don’t fret. Make the table as best you can. Make the pieces as accurately as you can. Align your joints. Center the baulks of wood in the clamps so that the center of the screw is in the center of the board you’re clamping, not offset and yanking it one way or the other. Measure assembled rectangles from corner to corner diagonally, and then the opposite diagonal, and when they are the same, the thing is “square.” Do your best to not let the errors accumulate; make only one mistake at a time.

It will still wobble. Mine do.

Then take the table, if it’s small enough, and place it on the only thing you own that’s flat, which is your tablesaw tabletop, and wobble it. Two table legs, diagonal from one another, will not lift off the tablesaw. Leave those alone for now. Wobble the table until the other two legs are both off the saw, and equalize the amount each is off the table. Use something to measure that distance between the bottom of the leg and the sawtable top. Mark that measurement on those two legs I told you to leave alone, those that WILL NOT wobble. I use a scribe, which is like a compass, to make such measurements and markings. Sand or cut to the line. Now the table will not wobble. It’s much harder when the table is bigger to find a flat surface to accommodate the four legs. Kitchen counters are generally very flat, especially if they are stone, as many are these days.

If you make a mistake cutting and measuring for the wobble, over and over, eventually you will get to the top the legs, and you’ll have a nifty cutting board.

By the way, accumulated error is why climate scientists tell you it’s going to be 500 degrees centigrade next summer, or there will be sheets of ice stretching over the Florida panhandle — depending on who gives them their grant money and whether their ruler has 11-1/2″ or 12-1/2″ inches to the foot.

Buxtehude Dude’s Guitar Goes To Eleven

Reader Arkadiy wants my boys to adapt some Buxtehude for guitar and drums. Nice music. Prehistoric Bach. It’s not a bad idea, but I refuse to carry a harpsichord up the stairs.

But, whoah; how much loot for that lute? That bad boy goes to eleven. You could moonlight on the weekend harpooning minke whales with that. I could change car tires using that for a lever. Joust. Our second floor windows could become secondary means of egress if we leaned that against the side of the house. I could pick apples on that thing. I could beat an elephant senseless with it in a pinch. It’s awesome. I want one.

No, I want two, so I could strap them to my legs and join the circus. 

The Homeschool Graduate

If you just tuned in, my boys have been playing Stump The Band, kinda sorta, with my audience. They’ve received lots of fine suggestions, some demands, and a coupla threats. They’re working on a handful of them right now. But the beast must be fed. Here’s some fresh Unorganization for Saturday. Enjoy!

If you’d like to support the boys’ efforts, hit the tip jar at the top of the right column. Many thanks.
[ Update: Thanks, Len! Thanks, Kathleen! Thanks again, David ! Thanks, Nigel from Merry Old! Thanks, Fred! Thanks, Gareth!]
[Uppa-update: Ha! My old friend and high school classmate Jay! Thanks! Thanks, Anh and Thud!]

Month: November 2012

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