Thoughts about someone I used to know and capital punishment.

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m home sick today so I have time to share a thought…..

A fellow I used to know is in court today and has been accused of doing some despicable things. When the subject of him has come up in conversation with other people that knew him it sometimes degenerates into chest thumping and oath making by someone about what they would if they were dolling out the punishment.

When I think about the anger my friends express I wonder about the root of it. Is it because of the nature of the charges against him or is it something else? We were all shocked when he was arrested. I thought I was a good judge of character and would be able to identify a creep at a 1/4 mile but I didn’t spot him and that really shook me.

I just can’t feel angry about it like some people I know. I feel sad. In his case I don’t think there’s any question whether or not he did what he’s accused of but more about how he should be dealt with. I’m sad for his(until a judge says otherwise) alleged victims and for the turmoil his family must surely be experiencing.

When somebody says a certain criminal should be strung up I share this thought:

When a dog attacks somebody and he’s put down it’s not about punishment because the dog won’t learn from this. It’s not about making things right because his death won’t help the bites heal. If it’s done simply to punish or with anger or a spirit of vengeance then it degrades the whole community(because it’s done with our consent). You should only put down a dog because it’s a 100% sure way that he won’t bite again.

This comparison is not meant to dehumanize anybody. In Canada we don’t have a death sentence but do put down vicious animals so it’s a familiar analogy that I think could apply to a debate about executing people.

Perpetrators of serious crimes are often characterized as monsters and I think this is wrong. They’re people…despicable but still people. It would be easy to protect our communities if they had horns but they don’t. If you’re on guard for monsters then you might not notice a bad person in your midst.

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A new material.

January 31, 2015 Leave a comment
I took a little time on my day off last week to work with some antler that was given to me by a coworker who hunts.  I have never worked with it before and all I had to go by was the hunter’s comment that it stank when it was sawed and a warning from The Mad Luthier™ that I should wear a respirator when working with it.
The hunter was right.  What a smell.  It definitely has a grain to it and it will split.  It saws OK and turns nicely though it will jam in the flutes of drill bit no matter what you do.  You definitely need to keep your tools sharp for this stuff.
I used a nail buffing block to polish it and finished it was paste wax.  It’s beautiful and feels like ivory.  The cores are porous and that constrains you in terms of sizing your pieces but I sawed some wide, flat pieces from the forks of the rack and might experiment with relief carving next week.
I incorporated some of the antler into a pen barrel and it’s gorgeous.  The big question is do I keep the pen, try to sell it, or try and trade it to the hunter (who is saving antler for a chandelier) for more from his stash?
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I wonder….

January 14, 2015 Leave a comment

At the end of my shift today I went to my supervisor, as I usually do, and asked him if he needed anything before I cleaned up and headed home.  He said, “just be here tomorrow and DON’T BE LATE.”  I had never been late for him and asked why he thought that might change.  His answer was simply, “DON’T BE LATE.”

I might just have to show up five minutes late one of these days just to see what happens.

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You should never feel bad about buying too many 2×4’s because they’ll be needed sooner or later.

January 1, 2015 Leave a comment

That’s what an uncle of mine used to say.  I was thinking about it because of a comment a friend made the other day.  He is in the process of divorcing his wife and is moving into his new home.  He said that he didn’t realize how much stuff he had and though he wasn’t nearly done moving, he was already running out of space.

What it made me think of is shelves and how my friend should make some of his own.  I have never felt bad about erecting shelving because they’ll be needed sooner or later.

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Yikes!

January 1, 2015 Leave a comment

I used to use a specific piece of grisly imagery when cautioning people I knew about ruthless people: Somebody finding your bones somehow.   “Don’t hang around with those guys or one day your girlfriend will find your bones stacked in the shower.”  “If you try hitchhiking then the cops will find your bones in a hole someday.”  “….. find your bones laid out on the kitchen table.”  You get the idea.

It’s something I read in a book as a boy and it stuck in my head as a young man during my time in East Vancouver.  In the beer parlours you’d rub shoulders with a few petty criminals you knew and the occasional not-so-petty criminal too.  I suppose that in rough neighbourhoods, rough characters are over-represented.  Pickton the pig farmer was on the news,  I was a pretty tasteless guy and it seemed like a colourful way of tapping into part of the area’s collective angst and add a little colour when warning a friend against doing something stupid.

Imagine my surprise, a few weeks ago, when I was listening to a story on the radio about environmentalists fighting against illegal logging in Peru and Brazil:  A group was hiking through the jungle and became divided into two groups:  The stronger hikers and the stragglers.  The story went that the strong group figured they were getting too far ahead and stopped to let the others catch up.  They eventually became impatient and decided to backtrack….only to find the bones of (presumably) their freshly butchered colleagues on the trail.

Yikes!

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I suppose you need bait/lures to catch fish.

December 31, 2014 Leave a comment

I was driving past the conference centre in Nanaimo the other day and saw some Jehovah’s Witnesses trolling for lost souls to save and I couldn’t help but notice that one of the female missionaries was wearing tall, high-heeled boots that I associate with something best done in the privacy of one’s home.

She did look somewhat like the women that work the night shift on that corner except her hemline was a little lower and her complexion was much better.

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Tight margins and cutting good customers a break.

December 29, 2014 Leave a comment

The end tank on my car’s radiator failed so I went out shopping for one today.  It made me think about profit and discounts for good customers.

I like the idea of cutting a good customer a good deal if you can but when you let one customer know you value them more than others you’re also letting your other customers know that they don’t matter as much.  It’s the difference between saying, “THE customer is #1″ and “THAT customer is #1.”  Of course that doesn’t happen if you keep things hush-hush but people do talk.  During the time I was a self employed welder I gave a fair price and that was that.  With a few exceptions it didn’t matter who you were and the price for a given task was the price whether you were rich or not.  I aimed to make money on the job but wasn’t going to get rich in the process.  I’ve needed a day job to make most of my money for quite a few years now and wonder if this attitude is why.

People would sometimes plead poor or want to haggle but for that to work I would have to arbitrarily add more to my initial price to be conceded during haggling or loose my profit.  Would that wider margin alienate some prospective customers?  Would that be fair to customers who just accepted my price?  I’ve told prospective customers my offer was a take it or leave it situation and I’ve also agreed to a lower price just to get some work.  I won’t do that anymore because I’ve never lost money on a job I didn’t get.  The next guy who arbitrarily asks me for a lower price will be asked what he wants removed from my scope of work to accommodate the cut.  I like to help people but I’m not the welfare office.

Sometimes there just isn’t wiggle room.  Here is an example for the work I do on gates and overhead garage doors:

Usually someone makes money from their labour and a mark up on the supplies they use(which pays the overhead of procuring, transporting, and possibly warehousing the supplies).

The only garage door wholesaler in my area refuses to sell to my company(I’m not approaching them as some homeowner wanting wholesale(which I’ve seen them do, by the way))  for fear of alienating my former employer who is their biggest customer.  Because of the situation every door part I buy is either paid at full retail or trucked over by ferry to Vancouver Island and the shipping costs leave me no room for marking up the price and remaining competitive…

….so I don’t get paid for time spent dealing with my parts so it comes out of the labour portion of my bill, which I can’t inflate because of wanting to be competitive and fair…so there is less room to deal with unforeseen costs or sleazy attempts at post hoc negotiating.  It’s hard to be competitive AND profitable in a cornered market.

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