Friday, June 22, 2007

Rings and things.

It was a big week. I am not sure where to begin. Chronological is best I s’pose. For those of you that don’t know – Amy and I have been working HARD on our house. At the beginning of spring we began devoting time to the outside/curb appeal. One of the big things to change was the fence. We hired a wonderful gentleman named Blair Van Velse to do the ‘work’ on this. He and I worked together on a design – and within a week of starting, he was done. It looks amazing! These pictures don’t do much justice – you really have to experience the new backyard.

Olde tyme fence vs. NEW AND IMPROVED (click to enlarge)

Olde tyme fence vs. NEW AND IMPROVED (click to enlarge)

I will be running some electricity and speakers soon (with Chad). Additionally we will continue to landscape and re-seed the lawn. In a dream world I’ll put a bocce court along the back fence, but I’m not holding my breath. It should be a pretty amazing backyard by the time we have Amy’s BBQ in September. (see entry 'Soft Hands' to read about re-roofing the barn).

What else…what else? Oh right…today is the seven year anniversary of my best friend breaking my leg…which means we are just days away from my seventh wedding anniversary. In honor of this glorious achievement I decided to do something special for Amy. I designed a new ring. It is not meant to replace her old ring – maybe just to be worn on the other hand or something? Whatever she is comfortable with.

This ring has been in the works since November (original drawing) – and G Thrapp has been working on it for just over 2 months. They did a fantastic job. I hope I was not too annoying to work with – but as the picky designer, I really wanted to make sure it came out well. The stone is a briolette cut (in case you are wondering) – and it is a white gold band (the only thing strong enough to hold the shape/stone).

(click to enlarge, email with questions)

I assume next week will be not as eventful as this week. So…yeah…enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In the newspaper...and I didn't do something bad!

So - I was in the paper today.

If you click on the image it gets larger and legible.

Autograph session on Monday.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Soft hands

I have unusually soft hands. They are not the softest in the world, but they are still quite soft. Before you start thinking that I don’t do anything that would “rough” them up – let me assure you – I do. I have done various forms of manual labor since I was in old enough to work. I have been a bicycle mechanic, theatre carpenter, metal sculptor, concrete sculptor, hours of landscaping; the list can go on and on. Not to mention the athletic things I have done that should build up calluses or otherwise “damage” my hands – tennis, golf, ultimate Frisbee, climbing, years of baseball – it just seems logical that my hands would be a little “rougher.” Hell, I even played guitar for a bit (not too long) – but long enough that it hurt the tips of my fingers.

I don’t want my hands to look like Clint Eastwood’s face – but I feel like people silently judge me because of their lack of coarseness. They think, “Oh, here comes that designer/professor guy, he doesn’t ever do any work – have you felt his hands?” I’m not really looking for sympathy, nor am I looking for suggestions on what do to “harden” my hands. Rather I was just using this as a lead in to something more substantial.

I know, I know – what could possibly mean more to ANYBODY than my soft hands? Well, not much, maybe this – US News had an article on their website the other day – it was called Best Careers 2007. My guess is the article is still up on their site if you are interested. The only career I remember from the list is college professor – and really I didn’t even look at the rest of the list. I am going to cut and paste what they say about it…

Professor: Executive Summary

By Marty Nemko

Posted 12/18/06

If you can land a tenure-track position at a four-year institution, you'll enjoy many advantages. You'll get the pleasure of teaching–but only six to 15 hours a week, so you're unlikely to burn out. Outside of class, you're required to meet with students, but that too is just a few hours a week. Most of the time, you'll do research or write on a scholarly topic that interests you. And in some specialties, you can pick up extra money by consulting. You also get to work in a delightful work environment: a college campus. Plus, after seven years, you get tenure–lifetime job security.

The downside? It's tough to land a tenure-track job. It helps if you were a star in your Ph.D. program–and it helps more if that was at a prestigious university. Obtaining a Ph.D. typically takes five to eight years once you've got a bachelor's degree. In sciences, you may also have to excel in a postdoctoral fellowship.

Be forewarned: Some academics complain about political correctness in the awarding of jobs and tenure, arguing that if you espouse conservative or libertarian theories regarding societal problems, you have a strike or two against you. And if you don't get a tenure-track job, you could end up teaching courses part time, like one third of faculty members at universities. You might land a full-time faculty position at a two-year community college, but some professors are frustrated by the heavier workload, and by a bigger intellectual gap between students and instructors.

Median Salary

$73,666. More specific salary data, provided by

So – I have a few things to say. First – who is getting paid a TON to make up for my salary? I am not complaining…but if the median salary is $73,000 – well – I just hope that one day I am on the OTHER end of the spectrum. Second – I don’t really have anything else to say. I do consider myself very lucky for landing a tenure track position. I hope it leads to tenure…

Anyway – this sort of got me thinking. For years I wanted to be a freelance designer/artist. I thought it would be an incredibly romantic and exciting way to make a living. I was unaware how much I would actually enjoy the professor thing (and not just because I make my dad call me professor Strain). In just my first year I have done some amazing things with my career – all with the stability of a steady job. I could ramble on and on about the good – but there is yet another purpose to all of this.

With all of these thoughts in my mind, I spent the weekend working in my yard. We are having a new fence put in (which thankfully I am not doing much for), I had to bury some downspouts, loads of planting, today I just finished reroofing the HUGE barn. As I sat on the barn…sweating…something crossed my mind. Being a roofer would suck – A LOT! My barn is not really huge – I can only imagine what it would be like to actually do an entire roof.

So, without further adieu, here is a list of the top 25 worst jobs (at least for me). I will make large and gross generalizations here…and…I appreciate people who do these jobs – I just don’t want them. Note: these are in no particular order.

1. Roofer.

2. Landscaper.

3. ANYTHING in food service.

4. Lawyer (sorry Dad).

5. Anything in the medical professions.

6. House painter.

7. Lowe’s employee.

8. Any retail employee.

9. Freelance designer/artist (I am learning to find romance in security).

10. Anything in safety/security.

11. Anything involving sanitation/trash.

12. Dog poop scooper (there’s a company in Franklin that does it).

13. Appliance installer/remover (appliances are heavy and used ones are GROSS).

14. Dry cleaner/launderer.

15. Mortician/undertaker.

16. President of the U.S.

17. Web developer/computer programmer.

18. Planet Earth videographer (they spend months in caves/deserts, etc.).

19. Anything that requires EARLY mornings…unless I can just stay up the night before.

20. Anything airline related – pilot, steward, guy with the cones…

21. Any desk/cubicle job.

22. Pilgrim (mostly because I hate Thanksgiving).

23. Gas station attendant.

24. Car salesman.

25. Lumberjack (see previous blog).

So – I think that sums that up. As I mentioned earlier – I really do appreciate the people that do these jobs, they are just not for me. As a matter of fact it seems that there are only a few jobs that I am suited for/capable of. Firstly and most obviously – the job I am in. It would also appear that I could make it as a strip club owner or perhaps a lingerie designer. I don’t really think that there are even any other jobs, are there? I am sure I covered them all. So – if I ever finish with this professor thing I have two options.

What about you, faithful reader? What job are you in? What job can you not stand? What is your dream job? Do you have soft hands? Are you a pilgrim?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Before you cut...

We have decided to put in a new fence. More to the point, we have decided to hire somebody to put in our new fence. I know what you are thinking. “Why? you know how to build things…how to layout/design a fence. Why not just do it yourself. For goodness sake, you have a degree in carpentry and another degree in design. How hard can it be?”

Well – you have valid thoughts. But guess what – your thoughts don’t mean shit to me. My job is to design and build things. That means when I get home and have to do it, it is not a “relaxing way to escape from work.” Rather it is just like work – except that Amy is not one of my employees – so we don’t really work well together. We do all right – but I generally get cranky because that’s what I do.

Anyhoo, Blair came to our house today to remove our old fence. Great – get rid of the old rotten red thing. The removal of said fence meant that I could now get the chainsaw out and remove the GIGANTIC bush in the back corner…as well as the little pine tree in the corner that is clearly on its last leg. When I say it – it sounds like a very easy after dinner type of job. I can repeat it a hundred times…it just seems like it shouldn’t take more than an hour. After all, I’m not using an ax, or a hand saw.

Well, as with any other “little” project we have attacked in this house, this one ending up sucking too. No matter how much planning we do, nothing seems to work well (now do you understand why I hired somebody to put in the fence?). OK – so the GIGANTIC bush was not so bad…if you ignore the poison ivy. The tree…well…the tree was not so good.

Some years ago our neighbor with the “shit for yard” (see RIP Rocky for more explanation) built a fence right next to the tree. Literally right next to it – as in one of the pickets was not even screwed in; rather it was just wedged between the tree and the 2x4 support. Anyway, the screws were on “my” side of the fence, so it seemed like a good idea to remove a few pickets in order to have better cutting access and to prevent breaking any pickets on their fence. I have ZERO desire to upset these people, let alone talk to them. So, if removing a bit of fence – just to put it back up – means that they will never know I was there, it is totally worth it.

In case you can’t see it coming, this is where things start going wrong. I was able to pull out five pickets around the tree. With the pickets removed I was “graced” with a few of all the crap in their yard. Little did I know that soon I would be in their yard…holding up a HUGE FUCKING PINE TREE and their fence. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

At this point Amy’s dad is using the chain saw and I am pulling on a rope that I have attached to the tree in hopes of pulling the tree towards my yard and away from the power lines…and their fence. As you know, the rope trick did not work. It might have started to work – but one man and a rope only has so much control over 2 tons of falling pine. In a matter of seconds the tree was neatly captured on their fence…and pushing it over quickly. I am paying to get my fence replaced, not theirs. And – their fence is oddly close to their pool – and I had no desire to explain that…let alone clean out their pool (who knows what is even in it – sulfuric acid?).

In a flash I was through the hole in the fence, using every bit of strength I had to support the tree/fence. Amy’s father is desperately trying to get the chain saw “unstuck” from the tree that is no resting on the blade. Did I mention that is dark? The sun set roughly 45 minutes ago. Amy and her mother have no decided that we need more help. They went running to the neighbors in hopes of finding another saw, more hands – maybe a time machine? Any would have helped at this point.

Roughly an eternity later Amy returned with our neighbor and a chain saw. I was able to cut some of the precarious branches that were catching on the fence. Eventually we were able to de-lodge the tree and roll it safely into our yard. We did also manage to find spare pickets hidden amongst the crap in the neighbor’s yard. I casually grabbed a few and quickly repaired their fence.

My hands are still covered in sap. My leg has a mysterious (and bloody) gouge in it, but the tree is down. The fence is still up – and there is no reason the neighbor should notice anything wrong with it. All in all, things worked out (as they always seem to do) – sadly they did not work out until MANY hours after we started. I assume we will get some complaints from other neighbors about the hours in which we had a chainsaw going. Oh well. At least nobody had to go to the emergency room.

Friday, June 1, 2007

What products do you buy?

Remember the days before DRV or TiVo? You might record your favorite shows with a VCR – or (even worse) – you might have to actually be home when they are on. How medieval. But now you just set your handy little device at the beginning of the season and you are done. Amazing. What a fantastic world we live in. I rarely watch live TV anymore…it annoys me.

It annoys me because (mostly anyway) of the commercials. You know, those product pushing things that happen for 3-4 minutes after 8 minutes of show (LOST – I’m talking to you). Ah yes, commercials, I see that it is ringing a bell.

You see, advertisers buy time in popular shows in the hopes that lots of people will see their product and then a few might go buy it. It used to be that the Super Bowl was just as famous for the commercials as it was for the football game. For some people it is/was probably more about the commercials. The past couple of years the commercials have not been that good – which is a little sad (although this year I was much more interested in the game – GO COLTS!).

Anyway, this was intended to be a blog about a commercial I just saw…and a few of my other favorites. I see them in the mornings – I watch the Today Show in my room without DVR (so no fast forwarding). And when I say “favorites” there are so many classifications – humor, visual interest…and probably some other stuff. At the end of a quality commercial I often say, “I’d buy that” or “if I didn’t already have insurance…” – this is just a little acknowledgement for all the hard work that went into the 30 second art.

My number one commercial (right now): The scene opens with an Eric Carl-esque (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) bug crawling on some leaves. It is a fascinating 2D art look – almost like flat papier-mâché with water color on top. The pictures take us through a garden, around an apple tree with a snake and eventually to a lake with some fish. The scene ends with a dinosaur foot stepping in the lake, narrowly missing a fish. In case you haven’t seen, the commercial is for the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Yes, the garden we just moved through was the Garden of Eden – you know…that place where Adam and Eve hung out with dinosaurs. I will refrain from giving all my thoughts on evolution vs. creation in this blog…

So why do I love that commercial so much? Well, at first I just love the artistry of it. It really is visually stimulating – inspiring, even. There is also a certain level of humor in it, at least for me. I like to think of the creative team that came up with it. For some reason they are all sitting in a room and thinking about how serious this is, and truly believing it. That’s funny to me.

Another good right now is for Stanley Steamer Carpet Cleaners. It is a young boy saying “Mom, check out Toby’s new trick” then we flash to a shot of Toby (a large yellow lab) dragging his but across the carpet. This is a hilarious site, especially for all dog owners who have seen this same sight in person.

Geico has had a fairly good run recently. 5 years ago they had an amazing commercial involving a stuffed dear and a jogger. If that doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sorry. You missed a fantastic commercial. But recently they have been doing the caveman thing – which is now being turned into a (probably bad) sitcom. I still snicker at the commercials, though.

Finally, I will end this with a great series of commercials; the “Sportscenter” commercials on ESPN. Wow. These use a slew of sports super stars and put them in funny cubicle/office situations with the various anchors of Sprortscenter. It can be anything from the Manning family having a scuffle to Lebron wondering where his chair went. These are all just comic genius. They should put them all on a DVD. I cannot believe I just asked for a DVD full of commercials.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just leave you with this question…what’s your favorite commercial? And I should specify – that airs in this country. Because we all know that other countries are much racier and much funnier with their advertising. you even watch commercials, or do you just fast forward through them like I try to do?