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WoJ–Momma’s boy

Posted by joeabbott on November 26, 2014

Well, I celebrated birthday 51 this year and still received gifts and a card from my mother. And this year she went bonkers getting me a blog-posting worth of goodies. So, while decorum dictates that I don’t say anything as crass as my mommy is better than your mommy, come along and see the proof to that pudding!


I’m a reader. I haven’t seen a movie in ages, we recently canceled the TV portion to our cable service (just weren’t using it), and I’m not much for radio unless I’m puttering about my shop … but books and magazines litter most every table and surface in our house. Well, save the loo … just not a big reader in that room. Far more comfortable places to enjoy a bit of reading.

But, I digress.

How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One

I have a lot of books on grammar and the proper use of the English language. Surprising, given my comfort at a certain amount of flexibility I enjoy with my writing, but knowing how, when, and what to break when writing is more important than not breaking anything. And now I own Stanley Fish’s “spirited love letter to the written word and a key to understanding how great writing works.”

I look forward to my time with this little gem!

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

Simon Singh has written some of the best books I’ve read. His Big Bang and The Code Book were two of my all-time favorites, and he wrote a third book, Fermat’s Enigma, which I also enjoyed quite a bit. So, when he offered a mash-up of the popular culture hit The Simpsons and tied it in with math … well, it was fish on! It’s no secret The Simpsons had some of the best writing in television but, as I noted earlier, I saw little of it save the occasional YouTube snippet.

I don’t think I’ll wait for bedtime to break into this book!

George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation

I’ll just share the words from the first page of this small book as a way of introduction:

George Washington, the father of our country, exhibited notable manners throughout his life. Diligence in social matters was common practice in decent society the world over, during his lifetime. At the age of 14, George Washington wrote down 110 rules under the title “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.” These rules were drawn from an English translation of a French book of maxims and were intended to polish manners, keep alive the best affections of the heart, impress the obligations of moral virtues, teach how to treat others in social relations, and above all, inculcate the practice of a perfect self-control.

Regrettably, without cracking the cover, I don’t think I could call to mind more than 4-5 “rules”, and perhaps that was the point of the gift. So, in a way to get my education going, I’ll share with you Rule 24 … a little something I break time and again: Do not laugh too much or too loud in public.

That George was a stern fella!

The Golden Section, Natures Greatest Secret

As a woodworker, I often fret about simple design decisions: how long vs. how wide? What thickness will suit best? How can I make this look better. In some cases it’s a matter of practicality, in others you can add a curve or minor flare, and in some you should rest upon time-tested proportion. Enter the Golden Mean.

The Golden Mean is roughly a proportion of 1:1.618 and (this time borrowing from the book’s flap): The Golden Section – otherwise known as phi, the golden mean, or the golden ratio – is one of the most elegant and beautiful ratios in the universe. Defined as a line segment divided into two unequal parts, such that the ratio of the shorter portion to the longer portion is the same as the longer portion to the whole, it pops up throughout nature – in water, DNA, the proportions of fish and butterflies, and the number of teeth we possess – as well as in art and architecture, music, philosophy, science, and mathematics.

It’s a fascinating topic and I’ll likely finish the book in a single sitting.


In addition to sending me a few books, she added the usual number of items to help me fill my home and time. Each one will get used!

Golden Mean Calipers

This was an item on my wish list, and a tool I’ll use to help me get those proportions right on my woodworking. Right now I’m building a few small “boxes” and want to be sure the lids are the right thickness in proportion to the depth. I’ll be breaking out these calipers to help me!

Build-It Clamp

The key to a lot of woodworking is having the right tools to hold your work piece and hold-downs are a part of that arsenal. This was another item on my wish list and it’ll come in handy in a number of ways.

A small collection of goodies

A bookmark from the “Dinosaur National Monument” (now on Suzy and my “must see” list) for the many books I received, a small calendar from her travels to Portugal, and a little metal “cat” token to keep in my pocket or on a shelf for those times I need a smile.

Each a welcome item to be placed about my home.


Well, I don’t believe getting things is a reasonable measure for whose mother is best, but the thoughts and efforts behind finding me these things and sending them to me on my birthday are the highpoints to my mind. Thanks, Momma! You made a long, hard week a bit more pleasant and I have pastimes aplenty for the months to come!


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