I used to giggle as I drove past the Berkeley city limits signs that said "A
nuclear free zone." to eat lunch on top of a nuclear reactor. The reactor is
gone now, replaced by the new CS department building.
The giggle on the government is that ARPA funded a network that could survive a
nuclear exchange as well as attempts by any government to control it.
A minor nit pick is that TCP/IP predated BSD Unix by a few years. BSD Unix
certainly helped with TCP/IP domination of computer communication.
The thing that scared the crap outta me was an episode on 60 Minutes
investigating NRC inspections of powerplant construction, specifically
the containment vessels for the nuclear material, the heart of the
plant. They interviewed more than one inspector who, years after the
fact, admitted to passing sub-standard construction under not so
genteel persuasion by shady unions. The ol' "we know where your
family lives" kinda thing. No telling how many currently operating
plants (do we still have any?) are iffy. A good example of the shaky
nuclear power plant industry in this country is Rancho Seco in N CA.
The China Syndrome was not bogus science fiction.
Funny we should make fun of France, for they have an excellent nuclear
energy record and actually export energy to other countries. "Freedom
Fries", my ass.
On Sun, 23 Aug 2009 13:25:43 -0700, David Nebenzahl
First off I don't think it's fair to lump Hometime in with TOH. The
latter no longer offers any educational value whatsoever while the
former does a pretty good job. And they have even spent time showing
how to assemble knock down cabinets, so if that's over their heads
then please don't ever let them touch a hammer. In any case the idea
is really to give the homeowner some idea of what goes on so they are
better able to ask the right questions of the pros, not necessarily to
make them able to do it themselves.
Norm, well I doubt I would be where I am today if it weren't for him.
Sure everything always goes swimmingly for him, and really you learn
the most from your mistakes and by never showing anything going wrong
that opportunity is never presented. As the saying goes, the
difference between an amateur and a pro is the pro knows how to fix
his mistakes. But for the format of the show it just isn't feasible.
There's a lot of accumulation of knowledge that has to happen. If
Norm makes it look easy and people try and give up, that really isn't
Norm's fault. But if he gives you a look at what is possible and you
find your own way from there, that's a good thing. There's a lot of
well equipped shops out there with everything but someone who knows
what to do with it, but that's true of every hobby.
As has been written here many times, Norm probably didn't frighten
Maloof or Krenov a whole lot. We all wince when the glue bottle, the
brad nailer, or the poly brush come out, but he probably had more
influence on the popularity of hobby woodworking than anybody. Even if
a fan never brandishes a jig saw in anger, there can be an appreciation
of the effort (and talent) involved involved in making a decent bench or
dresser and that can't be bad for those trying to make a buck.
Well said. As a matter of fact, I'll bet he never tried to scare
either of them.
Norm's job is to inspire. What bonehead thinks you will learn the
secrets of fine woodworking, plain woodworking, or anything else
actually, buy watching him for 22 minutes a week?
I must say though, when he starts to finish something, I go get a more
coffee. He is scary. I see those beautiful woods that are no less
than precious down here in S. Texas being slathered with a "special
blend of stains" and then covered with several coats of poly... it is
But Norm, Tom and the boys do help me make money. I honestly cannot
tell you how many jobs I have gotten where the homeowner started and
couldn't finish. I have one waiting on me now where the homeowner was
inspired to put Hardie on the back of his house. He put the board on
wrong and it leaks. It is broken in places where he tried to pull the
nail out that he bent. He didn't paint it, and now it has a bad case
of efflorescence. WTF is that, right? It ruins the paint job if it
isn't treated. Worse, he bought ALL the siding and stored it
improperly. It might be ruined.
He started the project two years ago.
I just finished one where the homeowner tried to do his own roof
repairs, fascia replacement, siding replacement and painting of the
house. He got exactly one
piece of siding out and replaced. Then it was either too hot, too
cold, rainy, or not a weekend that was open. His wife signed the
contract while he was trying to tell her that he "could get on" some
of the remaining work right away. She told me he started 3 years ago!
My own BIL loves to watch those shows, and gets in deep so fast they
pay me to fix his "projects". He is a great guy and means well, but
he just can't grasp what goes into remodeling/repair. The very first
time I worked on their house, my sister gave me a list of things that
were in various stages of repair/disrepair that he had started. He
likes to go buy a tool, one he saw on the shows, and thinks that will
also give him the skills as well.
It is always funny to me how so many men, especially white collar
guys, feel like their own job is sophisticated, difficult and takes
years of hard work and dedication to master. Yet when they see a blue
collar guy, they may respect the work he does but they feel like they
can do the same work (or near to it), at just a bit slower pace.
Just a bit of practice on the weekends, and they are good to go.
But they do indeed make me money. By the time they wave the white
flag, they are so sick of having their backsides chewed off by their
wives they will gladly pay a fair price if they are assured of actual
So at the guy that "starts the job but can't finish" house, how many
entry way doors have I repaired/reinstalled? How many interior doors
have I hung/rehung? How much crown molding have I put up that was in
the garage for a couple of years? How many cabinets have I installed/
reinstalled? How much refinishing have I redone on cabinets and
Couldn't tell you. But there have been many times these guys have
paid my bills!
I say long live those guys, and shame on any of you folks that
actually think you can get more than a quick snapshot of a good
tradesman working in 22 minutes.
Did anyone catch the quote from the TV Show "House" about Norm?
House's oncologist friend Wilson was staying with him between
marriages. He noted surprise that House had New Yankee Workshop
marked as a favorite on his on-screen menu.
He said "Gee House, I never figured you as the woodworking type."
House responded (paraphrase): "Oh yeah. A total moron in a building
full of ultra-sharp woodworking machinery. As a physician, the
suspense is unbearable!"
But I still like Norm.
Norm is a machinist that happens to work in wood rather than metal. For
a few shows, they made of point of explaining how some steps could be
done with normal tools versus the high-dollar specialty tools, but I
haven't seen that lately. But him and his buddy Tom are definitely
master carpenters, and if I was a (very) rich man, I'd happily hire them
both to build or rebuild a house for me. You can't fake that easy
familiarity with the tools, the materials, and the process. I grew up in
the business, and saw and worked with enough real carpenters and idiots,
to know the difference. Other than making me feel like an inadequate
klutz, watching the pros work was always an educational pleasure. Most
of them, unless they were on deadline, didn't mind me watching and
asking questions. I learned a lot from them.
I liked TOH much better in the early days, in spite of that idiot BV.
The projects had something to do with reality back then, and Norm was
still a working contractor. (Not sure if Tommy still is- I never see him
wearing the 'Silva Brothers' shirts any more.) They also had the owners
actually doing work back then, unlike most of the current 'This Old
Mansion' projects. The New Orleans arc a couple years ago had a little
of that old flavor, with some things actually going wrong. On the out of
town projects, they aren't involved as closely, and things still go
wrong that can't be edited out.
I think people bitching about the yuppification of TOH is why they
started the companion show, Ask TOH. Around here, that has basically
driven NYW off the schedule- I only trip across that a few times a year
any more, on the local PBS.
I think you are right. My father in law was a machinist for years and
then started doing wood. He and Norm have a lot in common in the way
While my father in law can turn out some really beautiful pieces often
there seems to be something missing. Maybe its that the lines are too
straight and the circles too machine perfectly round.
Has the term inspiration become obsolete? After reading the message I
think I know what direction I would not look for any. What does Cantor
expect? Watch a half hour program and the viewer will have the ability
to build anything?
These shows simply demonstrate what can be done if a person is willing
to apply themselves.
I don't mind giving Norm and all the others some of the credit for
inspiring me. I've watched many of those programs over the last three
or four decades and have learned a lot from them.
I started small years ago building furniture, a rec room and various
DIY projects, and ended up designing and building the house I live in
When I say build I mean I did the building. I hired a contractor to do
the foundation. I did most of the rest of the work with help from
friends and family.
I'm presently building kitchen cupboards, much the same as I saw Norm
building cupboards on his show. I'll post a few photos of the house
and some utility room cupboards I built for practice on
As for Mr Cantor, I'd give him the credit for having the ability to
discourage someone from ever starting because it will be too hard.
Out of curiosity, has Cantor ever built anything or is he just an
By the way, I worked all my adult live as a Technician and didn't know
the first thing about hanging a picture frame when I started. I
learned from my mistakes and kept at it. If Norm can do it so can I.
David Nebenzahl wrote
On 8/23/2009 1:25 PM David Nebenzahl spake thus:
[yes, it's Abram, not Abrams. Apparently they didn't name the tank after
Heh; got some junk mail from /Popular Woodworking/ today (don't think
I'll subscribe, as I got spoiled from reading /Fine Woodworking/). The
pitch features the cover from their August 2005 issue, with a photo of
Norm in his shop. The article title is "In the Shop with Norm Abram: We
Debunk 7 Myths About TV's Frugal Yankee".
Wonder what the myths are. Anyone have this issue lying around?
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism
I remember that issue, way back when and they were all softball
questions. You know,
"Does Norm own the shop" and "Does Norm really have a power tool fetish"
and "Does Norm
actually build all those projects himself", that kind of thing.
I will say, Popular Woodworking surprised me, I got it on a whim one
year and have kept renewing ever since. FWW, PWW and a multi-year
subscription to Wood that someone got me is all I read these days.
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