Monday, August 4, 2014

Western Trout

I've had a rare and wonderful opportunity in the past week to fish for trout in two different regions of the western United States.  For a guy who doesn't get much time on the water, this was quite a treat.

First up was central Idaho. A friend from an online fly fishing group I've been a part of for quite a few years invited us to his property along Loving Creek, a spring creek tributary to Silver Creek, near Picabo, Idaho.  (And yes, Picabo is pronounced as if you were saying it to an infant.)  Steve has been taunting the group with photos of the landscape of his ranch and of trout from his stream, so I combined a trip to visit family in Seattle with three days of Idaho fishing.

We also fished the Big Lost river in the Copper Basin area above Ketchum, rushing mountain streams with different feel (and with cutthroat trout as well as rainbow) from the spring creeks.  Fishing the spring creeks was difficult but enjoyable and rewarding, as was the companionship.

Early morning on Loving Creek

Silver Creek from above

Floating Loving Creek

Since I had gear in tow, I decided to find a trout stream near my in-law's home of Bremerton, Washington.  With a few suggestions and some web searching, I settled on the mountain reaches of the Dungeness River, whose headwaters is in the Olympic Mountains.  In many ways the Dungeness is the opposite of the wide-open Idaho spring creeks, sight lines in the verdant Olympics being limited by the giant fir and bushy alder and hemlock trees.  In Idaho, I could see the truck from a mile or more away as I hiked back to it.  In the Olympics, I couldn't see more than 30 feet ahead of us as we drove the dirt roads.  The Dungeness plunges steeply as well, with fast rapids punctuated by occasional pools.  Father-in-law Doug, a native of these parts, joined me.

I was on the water early and had little success to start with, but eventually caught a few small trout.  One large pool beckoned with its overhanging trees.  I got myself into position downstream and cast a brushy red "Humpy" fly- one that doesn't resemble any particular insect but looks buggy to hungry trout- upstream.  After a few drifts, a trout took the fly and I assumed it was yet another small one.  After a much stronger tug and a good bit of line pulled off my reel, I got the fish closer to me and saw it was quite a healthy one.  It was tricky to get a photo of it, but measured against my fly rod it was 16" long and plenty fat.  My day was made!

After a sandwich lunch, we drove further upstream to a popular trailhead where the road crosses the Dungeness.  Apparently all hikers, I had the river to myself, and again worked the plunge pools with a bushy Stimulator fly.  Here the fish were eager but not particularly large.  I took one or two brook or rainbow trout from most of the pools, none larger than 10 or 12 inches.

Dungeness River, in a hurry to get to the Pacific

Healthy rainbow trout

It was a great day!  And I feel fortunate to have had these two opportunities to indulge my love of spending time in the great outdoors.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Time in Saxony

I recently had an opportunity I couldn't refuse: an invitation to travel to Dresden, Germany.  My friend Jay was invited by the watch manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne to tour their production facilities in Glashütte, just south of Dresden.  I was Jay's "plus one".  And the trip was a watch-nerd's dream.

Along the shore of the Elbe River
The 7:15am view from my hotel window: the clock shown here chimed at 7am, a pleasant way to wake!  It is in the tower of the Dreikönigskirche.

I love German hotel breakfasts with cured meats, strong coffee, Müsli, and best of all the soft-boiled egg or Frühstücksei.  At this hotel, the egg came capped with this cute gnome hat.

The Dresden Frauenkirche.  Until just 10 or fewer years ago, the church and buildings on this square were still ruins from the February, 1945 bombing of Dresden.  The dark stones are from the rubble: the light colored stones are new.

The Dreikönigskirche during the daytime hours.

Jay and Matt waiting for our tour of the Grünes Gewölbe, the Green Vault of the jewels of the Saxon kings.

We also toured the famed Semperoper, Semper Opera house, where, for us, the highlight was the Five Minute Clock, which you can see here near the bottom of the photo, showing 3:45.

The tower of the Schloß Weesenstein, where we lunched before touring the Lange factory.
The fleet of chauffeured black Audis that carried us from place to place.  The drivers angled to get Jay and me as passengers- seemingly few members of the group spoke German and the drivers spoke only rudimentary English.

On the factory tour with the president of Lange's North American office, Gaetan.

At the end of the tour, they presented many of the production models for us to inspect and try on for size.

Saxonia Annual Calendar in white gold.

1815 Up/Down in white gold.

Datograph Up/Down in platinum.
I really liked the Datograph.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Today I'm doing a "how to use the library" session for a group of students who are learning about the history of Berlin.  Since it happens to be nearly exactly 30 years since I was in that great metropolis, I dug out some of the photographs from that trip to remind myself of my visit.  It was a long weekend visit during a longer exchange visit I made to Germany that summer.  My host family had aunt/cousins in West Berlin, so off we went.

I can only imagine how different it is today, and I look forward to seeing it again at some point.  These are a few of the shots that I thought would be most representative of showing what Berlin was like in 1983 from a young man's point of view.

Mostly I remember a vague feeling of being scared.  We drove to the city through East Germany, and the border crossings were tense- for me at least.

Yours truly, taking a photo of the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate, from the western side.  The Reichstag is directly behind me.

And for a meta-moment, here is the photo I was taking when the one above was taken by my host mother.

Another memory of that day- and the importance of paying attention in history class- my host Aunt spent a good hour quizzing me on the history of the American Civil War.  Which I had to explain.  In German.

The Brandenburg Gate from the East Berlin side, Unter den Linden.  Me looking nervous.

At the bus stop, my host brother and me, yet again sporting a CWRU sweatshirt.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer visit to Washington

We had a lovely summer visit to the Pacific Northwest.

It is a long flight from Cleveland to Seattle, but we are fortunate that there is a non-stop to take us there directly.

It's exciting to see the water.

Grandma made several costumes for the lad.  Here is Doctor Sam.

Buzz Lightyear: To infinity... and beyond!

And the good knight, Sir Sam. Like all good knights, he wears jammies under his armor.

We got out in the kayaks- such a peaceful way to travel on the water!

We had a day adventure to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.  We took the long route via ferry to Vashon Island, then another ferry to Point Defiance.  Boys love boats.  The touch pool at the aquarium was fascinating.

Fun in the pedal go kart on the driveway.

Picking apples with the help of Grandpa's tractor.

Hard work deserves a treat.

Bill and Kim had some grown-up time in Seattle.  One fun adventure was learning how to blow glass.

A day trip to Mount Rainier National Park, where Kim and Bill enjoyed the glorious weather with a hike among the meadows.

Beautiful scenery.  Pretty nice mountains and flowers too.

Kim and Sam visit with Kim's friend Sara and her two boys on Whidbey Island.

Learning from the expert how to perfectly roast marshmallows.

 What a fun time we had!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Campus Legacy

No, that's not Sam.  That's the humble author with his grandfather, William Searl Hoffman, in 1969.

A week or so ago, I was looking through a collection of books I have at home.  I call this particular section of the library the Hoffman Memorial Collection- books that belonged to my mother and her parents and are inscribed with their names.  Most of Mom's are from her college years.  There are several that belonged to my grandfather, and one- his copy of Don Quixote- has in pencil, below his name, "Carnegie Technical Inst".  I had a vague memory that he'd gone there for schooling.  Part of what now is Carnegie Mellon University, it was a trade school and was where he went after graduating from West Tech High School in Cleveland to learn to be a printer.

I did some Googling to see if I could find anything about his time at Carnegie Tech.  Nothing came up, but I *did* find his name in a document housed at CWRU's own digital repository, Digital Case.  Not once but three times does his name appear in commencement bulletins for Western Reserve University: in 1932 when he was awarded a certificate for teaching industrial arts, in 1936 when he earned a B.S. in education and again in 1942 when he earned a M.A. in Education- all of these while he was employed as a teacher in the Cleveland Public School system as an instructor of printing.  And all of them occurred after he became a family man.

Why his education at WRU wasn't celebrated family lore is beyond me.  My sister Jane has a memory of Grandpa's graduate degree, but nothing beyond the fact of it.

I'd always dated my family's connection with CWRU (and all of its past incarnations) with my mother's graduate education in Library Science in 1957-58.  Dad came to campus almost exactly a decade later and completed his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics in 1970.  A decade and a half after that, I arrived as an undergraduate on campus earning my B.A. in English in 1988 and M.A. in English in 1993.  But it turns out our connection goes back a further 25 years with my grandfather's education.  So not a bad set of sheepskins for one family from one university.

I just wish Grandpa had stayed with us longer:  he died at the age of 62, in 1971.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book 'em

Nothing quite compares to the feeling of completing a creative project.

Kim and I carried this completed book case out of the workshop and into the bedroom yesterday.  It's the first large piece of furniture I've finished in some time.  Sure, I've done plenty of other smaller projects, but this one has been simmering and slowly coming along for quite some time.  In fact, the drawings I made for it are dated 2008.  Kim reminds me that since then I've created a few other things outside of the workshop, but still.  Five years on a case piece is a long time!

I've written about this project before here on Commonplace.  There was a post about making dowel pegs from firewood.  I talked about preparing the lumber in this post, which also shows the inspiration for the project- an article written by Shaker furniture expert Christian Becksvoort.  His version can be seen on his site- boy howdy, I saved $4,500!  And yes, I adjusted the measurements from his example- my version is about 6" wider.  This post is mostly about Memorial Day, but there is a picture of the dovetails, freshly cut, that hold the case sides together.  And in this post, the shelves were but a drawing taped to the wall and a pile of lumber.

Here is the case with the doors closed, empty of books.  It is made from solid black cherry.  The wide lumber (the top and sides are 12" wide boards) comes from a memorable snowy day, probably 15 years ago, when I acquired it from a barn in western Geauga county- the personal stash of an octogenarian woodworker who could no longer make use of it.  I think of him and his kindness often when I'm working in the shop.  The small table in front is one of a pair that I built about 8 years ago.  The bed frame was built with the same lumber.

Dovetails are a mechanical joint, and here they connect the top of the case to the sides.  The shelves are also connected to the case sides with sliding dovetail joints.

I'm particularly proud of the perfectly matched door knobs I turned on the lathe.

 Here's the case, doors open, loaded with trout and fly fishing books.

The young apprentice says it measures up!

Friday, November 30, 2012

1869 Carpenters' Shop

Earlier this week Joel Moskowitz, proprietor at Tools for Working Wood, posted a photo to his blog of a wonderful engraving he found while at the public library on the day after Thanksgiving.

The engraving, from the June 26, 1869 London Illustrated News, shows the interior of a "carpenters' shop"- really a cabinetmaker's shop if you ask me.  The men are building furniture here, not houses.

The library where I work owns a fairly complete run of this periodical, so I located the image in question and scanned it at high resolution to get a better look at it.  Here it is.

The level of detail in the image is wonderful.  In the foreground, two men work at low benches: one at a saw bench ripping a plank of lumber, the other sitting astride the stile of a panel frame while mortising it with a mallet and chisel.  As it so happens, I was working in just the same fashion just a short time ago, chopping mortises in the stile of the frame for the back panel of a book case I'm building.

Other delights abound in the image.  The man on the foreground left is working on a large glued up panel, perhaps a table top.  There are completed tables with lovely cabriole legs on the right.

I did a very small amount of manipulation of the image in Photoshop to clean up the image.  I removed some wording from the bottom of the image: after the title, on the original it says "-see page 641", a reference to the article in which the image is mentioned.  The article tells that the shop is part of a facility built on Vauxhall Bridge Road by the Guards, where soldiers could socialize and- in this shop- "learn the trade of carpentry."

If you'd like a print of the engraving to hang on your shop or office wall,  I've uploaded the image to at full resolution (600dpi).  From Imagekind you can select from a large number of sizes, paper types, mounting, matting and framing options.  For $16 you can get a 16"x10.5" print on enhanced matte paper.

Here is the full size scan if you'd like to download and print it on your own.  It is 6175x4048 pixels and about 25MB in size.

I hope you enjoy this image as much as I do!