Extremely Average #50: The Women of Ames

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Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 02-21-2010 07:08 AM 1721 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 49: Henry Wood Detective Agency: The Lab Part 50 of Extremely Average series Part 51: Henry Wood Detective Agency: The Next Clue »

Sitting in the twenty-fourth row, seat 3, I prepare to watch the Iowa State Cyclones take on the Missouri Tigers in women’s basketball. To those who don’t follow NCAA division I women’s basketball, the Cyclones are one of the top programs in the country. They are consistently in the top 20, and are currently ranked 13th. When attending an ISU game, be it men or women’s basketball, one is sure to be impressed by ‘Hilton Magic’. The magic comes from the boisterous cheers of the fans, who I believe, supported the women enough to have the 4th or 5th highest attendance in the nation last year.

The style of play is fun to watch. In their last home game, against Baylor, the women made 16 three pointers from only 33 attempts. I look forward to the battle.

Sitting in row 24 and looking down at the polished hard wood floor, I think about my days working at Hilton Coliseum. I was on the custodial staff in college and loved working the women’s games. Back then, the crowds were much smaller, so it was an easy gig, plus I got to watch the games. I think about days working custodial, about studying economics, and playing speed chess every chance I could. I had no idea what life would be like after college.

The path chosen is markedly less interesting than the one I am on now. I ran a candle manufacturing plant, worked as an analyst at GEICO, and spent 3 years building spaces in virtual worlds. Each of those paths were interesting, but far less thrilling than running my hand across a piece of finely sanded hard maple or oak. Feeling the smoothness and marveling at the beauty of the wood. Woodworking, whether it is creating a jig for routing, reading a magazine or book on the subject, or wondering the isles at The Woodsmith Shop, it is the most fun I have ever had. And let me tell you, there have been some pretty fun times. Some of those times involved wearing a Santa suit, going on a bar crawl, and drinking more vodka than a Russian sailor on shore leave.

Admittedly, I remember more of the details from my woodworking, so it may not be a fair comparison. I do know that each day of the journey seems better than the day before.

While I tap my toes to the ISU band’s rendition of Dexie’s Midnight Runners, ‘Come On Eileen’, I review the day. Since I was in Des Moines and away from my, and I use the term loosely, workshop, I couldn’t work on my router table. I could, however, go to the Woodsmith Store. I had one goal, to buy some practice wood. When I purchased the bevy of DVDs from Taunton Press, I had included in the mix, one that dealt with the art of chip carving. I don’t know much of anything about chip carving presently. I do know that, for a novice, practicing on hard woods isn’t at all enjoyable. In fact, it boarders on impossible.
The helpful people at The Woodsmith Store, pointed me to some small ¼ inch basswood. I bought some of the basswood and a couple of magazines.

Time was not on my side. I didn’t have nearly as much time as I would have liked. For you see, I was in desperate need of an ‘Emergency Hair Cut’. In just the nick of time, I pulled into Sports Clip, where Katie, rushed in and performed the incredibly complicated and difficult, hairectomy. If I had been twenty minutes later, I probably wouldn’t have made it. Katie was brilliant! Cute as a button, she showed not the slightest bit of fear. I left feeling confident that I would no longer frighten small children or cause, normally friendly dogs, to snarl and growl.

The crowd began to cheer. The game was still 15 minutes from tipping, but Hilton was paying its respects to one of the greatest women’s basketball players in ISU history. Angie Welle, number 32, ran up and down the floor from 1999-2003, and broke scores of records. It was on her shoulders and those of the team from 2000, who beat Uconn, to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, that Bill Finley built his nationally respected basketball powerhouse.

The number 32 is unfurled from the rafters, the crowd cheers, and Angie Welle returns to sit with her friends, family and former teammates, in the stands. The current starters jump out to an 18 – 2 lead. Go Cyclones!

-- Brian Meeks,

9 comments so far

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3396 days

#1 posted 02-21-2010 07:10 AM

That is not the entire picture. Normally I am able to edit the pictures to make them small enough to fit on here. Sadly, I am not at home with my computer and photoshop. Also it is getting late. Sorry.

-- Brian Meeks,

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4320 days

#2 posted 02-21-2010 10:29 AM

Thanks for sharing that story about your past and your love of woodworking. Now I know what the candle part is from but what about the eco part? Did I miss something? Which brings me to another question, what do you do for a living Brian if you don’t mind the question? Anyway, I’d have to agree that woodworking beats any job I ever had but, I don’t do it for a living either. I do love a finely sanded piece of wood too. Have you ever tried mahogany or something really hard like marble wood? Oohh baby. By the way, today I unclamped my first panel from my new panel caul and it was megaflat, the glue didn’t stick to the caul because I covered them with tape, and I found out you don’t really need two nuts to use the threaded rod instead of the bolts. Beats anything at work for at least three years.

-- Jim

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3655 days

#3 posted 02-21-2010 04:13 PM

Basswood is nice to carve. A chip carved box lid is a good start if that’s where you think you are going.

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3655 days

#4 posted 02-21-2010 04:27 PM

By the way…. I was wondering where all my mixed tapes from the ‘80s ended up…

View Chris's profile


49 posts in 3350 days

#5 posted 02-21-2010 05:01 PM

Always a pleasure reading your blogs. If you are not already an author ….......

-- One Time Tree Man

View ScienceNerd's profile


24 posts in 3355 days

#6 posted 02-21-2010 05:48 PM

Hi, Ecocandle…was fun to hear about Ames. I’m an ISU alum (Chemistry ‘03) and was even a member of that rag-tag band you referred to. I’d like to think that my tastes in both music and wood have matured since then :), but I still have fond memories of Ames. Hope your winter hasn’t been too awful this year…

View Hoakie's profile


306 posts in 4366 days

#7 posted 02-21-2010 06:54 PM

I too am an ISU grad (Ph.D. Analytical Chemistry ‘98). Science nerd, I was done with teaching recitations and labs by spring ‘99 so it sounds like we just missed each other.Love the Hilton magic!! Go Clones!

-- John H. [To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. ~Edison]

View stefang's profile


16665 posts in 3664 days

#8 posted 02-21-2010 08:42 PM

Glad to hear you are enjoying your woodworking Brian. I feel much the same way as you do, but I suspect that if one had to make a living at it there would be repetitious routine boring work just like any other job. That’s what is so nice about it being a hobby. We can do whatever we feel like doing and we are the customer (that’s not always good). Dealing with intangibles all day can leave one feeling a little empty. Woodworking can satisfy our need for hands-on action and a resulting 3 dimensional object to be admired by one and all. That’s my take on it anyway.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3396 days

#9 posted 02-21-2010 10:50 PM


The Eco comes from how we made the candles. They were made from soybean oil, as opposed to parifin, which is a petroleum by product. Hence the Eco in Ecocandle. I make my living doing marketing and social media stuff for a company who does SasS (Software as a Service). I like my job.


Glad to meet you. The winter hasn’t been bad at all. I moved back to Iowa from the DC metro area, this past summer, so my winter has been much better than my old roommate’s.


It is nice to meet you too. I am pleased that there are some Cyclones reading the blog. I have a few friends who read, and they are all Hawk fans, of all things, so this evens it up considerably.


I can’t say if I would enjoy it as much, if I needed to do woodworking, to make a living. For now, I don’t really have any plans at building things to sell. I just want to build fun stuff for me to use.

Thanks All,


-- Brian Meeks,

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