Friday, August 31, 2007

M/V Cora Black or Restoring an Old Wooden Boat

A couple of months ago one of my closest friends and I purchased an old rotten wooden boat, the Cora Black. She's an old salmon fishing boat and probably fifty years old or more.

She's leaking some nasty bilgewater from the front (a place water should not be exiting a boat). There are some very rotten boards that are going to be very hard to replace, and the whole thing has many coats of paint all over it.

Last night we pulled her from the water on Salmon Bay, near Ballard, WA and brought her over to my yard at work. I built her a custom skid so I can move her around and placed her up on foam pads. I'll build some bracing later to lift her up off of the keel and support her properly.

I've heard some horror stories about letting wooden boats dry out. Apparently the wood shrinks and the seams open up. We used to have a wooden hot tub that would do this when we emptied it out to clean it. When we would fill it back up the water would gush out for a few hours until the cedar soaked up the water and filled the voids between boards.

Cora is cedar, too, I think, so at least I'll be able to replace the rotten planks easily. We have big plans for her, and I'll keep you up to date on her progress.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shame on Hague

This story has been eating away at me for a few days now and I just have to post it. I'd never heard of Jane Hague before reading this in the PI the other day, but I think she's a disgrace to the County and I'm ashamed to be in a district adjacent to her.

The story says that Jane was picked up driving home from a fund-raiser where she had a few too many. It happened days before the primary election and was not disclosed until 2-1/2 months later. It says that she was cursing and condescending to the officer and goes into some previous incidents when she refused to take responsibility for her mistakes.

Here's a snip from the story, you decide;
The trooper's report said Hague questioned his qualifications to administer blood-alcohol tests, on which she had readings of 0.135 and 0.141, well above 0.08, the statutory definition of intoxication. He wrote, "Several times (Hague) stated I should be out looking for real criminals, and sarcastically stated that my mother must be proud of me."
I've heard enough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Super Carpenter" or How to Build Meaningful Children's Things (that Aren't Made In China)

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with Chinese manufactured goods, but a great homecooked meal beats Denny's every time.

I grew up with a father that told me stories about Super Carpenter, a hero that loosely resembled him. Super Carpenter's adventures were more exciting than my father's, but not by much. When I was young, my father built me a bed, bookshelves, and I'm sure countless other things that I've long forgotten. What I never forgot, though, was how proud it made me that my dad could build anything. None of it was beautiful by furniture maker standards, but it was always thoughtfully designed and built to withstand a hurricane. My dad was a general contractor and then a crate builder and small business owner (with a healthy dose of owning/running a preschool and being a landlord of a few rental properties thrown in for good measure). He was a Norwegian Son too, and a carpenter's son.

Suffice it to say that I was excited, when I became a father, to complete some building projects for my daughter. I don't have the extensive background with construction standards and practices that my father has, but I grew up going to jobs with him and having a huge working wood shop behind my house (though I spent as much time trying to shoot nails at the windows and burning the place down as I did learning to build things). My first two projects were a blanket/toy box and a large, standing book shelf. I then built a small tabletop bookshelf and more appropriately sized toy box. Today, with the help of Google Sketchup, I designed and built an indoor playhouse that fits in a corner of my daughter's bedroom. (See Photo for dimensions).

It's about four feet by three feet, and nearly four feet high. It has a window and a hinged door and a mailbox. I brought it home for her this afternoon. An attempt to describe the way she looked when she saw it, and realized it was for her, and that she could open the door and go in and out herself and check her mailbox, would not be true to the moment. She was elated and shrieking. It made my week, and it made me think again about how proud I was that my dad could build me things. I'm sure my daughter is too young to be proud that I'm her dad, but when she is old enough, I want her to feel that way about me too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Management Style: Reluctant

I came to management from a job as a drone with a large internet service provider. My previous career was as an internet systems engineer, which is really to say a janitor. Cleaning up stray bits of data, rebooting servers, sitting on conference calls, and actually doing very little in the course of a day was my lot. The multinational company whose ISP I worked for was a behemoth and the red tape and bureaucracy was fantastically suited to getting very little if anything actually done.

I left that company, or should say, was downsized from it (they called it a RIF or reduction in force). Isn't it a nice, tidy word, RIF? Isn't it a tight, mono-syllabic wisp of a word. It's purpose, however, is to avoid the truth. Turn it around and it becomes the start a much more harsh word FIRed. It doesn't feel any less bad to be RIFfed as it does to be fired. The person that layed me off had never met me, knew nothing about me or my situation or anything I had done for the company. I imagine he didn't lose any sleep over the matter. I was one of hundreds that day, and many hundreds in the months and years before that. He had a buffer, it was not his decision, he was just tasked with the job of taking the jobs of others away. Something I had a hard time relating to...until recently.

I'm now the general manager of my family's business; a small woodworking shop with fewer than ten employees. The job of hiring and firing falls on my shoulders now and I work a lot harder for a lot less compensation. That's not a complaint as much as it is a fact. I had to fire someone yesterday. It's not the first time I've had to do it and it won't be the last. That didn't make it any less hard. I wrestled with the fairness of it all. I knew the person I fired and he needed the job as much as anyone. He's a great person, a great human being. Unfortunately that's not enough when it comes to his job. His circumstances were difficult. His life has been harder than most people I've met. I still had to let him go. I had to tell him it wasn't working. I was fair, I paid him for a couple of weeks extra. It doesn't make me feel any better. I did sleep last night. Not any less or worse than usual, but I did grieve his loss and I worry about his situation. I care about him. I care about all of my employees and I do feel that it's my job to make sure that they have a good working environment and that they feel respected and appreciated. I hope he left with a sense of pride in his working here. I hope his spirit isn't broken. I'll think about him a lot, I'm sure, and I'll remember him. As I told my wife this morning, I don't want him to be beat or marginalized by this, but I'm sure It has made his life harder.

The moral of all this? I don't know. I'm not even sure there is one. I know it will make me more cautious of who I hire, how involved I get in their lives. A person's livelihood is not to be messed with lightly. These things should be difficult and poured over. The buck should not be passed.

I hate this part of my job, but I hope it never gets any easier. If it does, I'll know I've gone terribly wrong.