A History of Making


The following is an article about my grandfather that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal (or Sentinel, I’m not sure which) on February 26, 1981.

If you know me, this article will probably seem familiar to you… and if you don’t know me, reading this article may give you some insight into why I am the way I am, and tell you a bit about my family.

When the Boy Scouts of Troop 501 in Greenfield needed snowshoes for their winter hikes in deep snow, they turned to an American Indian design—and Roman Prodoehl.

Although it was his first venture into snowshoes, Roman Prodoehl of 4429 S. 66th St., Greenfield, has spent the 10 years since his retirement from Falk Corp. concentrating on his woodworking hobby.

One of the boys in Troop 501 knew all about Prodoehl’s work.

Peter Prodoehl grew up knowing how grandpa could turn pieces of wood into something magical.

The scoutmaster did the research and found a snowshoe design developed by the American Indians of the northeast-tribes that lived in the area that is now the state of Maine.

Roman Prodoehl took the design and started working on the snowshoes in mid-September.

Now Troop 501 has 11 pairs of snowshoes, and an easier time of it when they hike (with full backpacks) through the deep Wisconsin snow.

“I do it for the love of the work,” says Prodoehl. “My son Ron (Peter’s father) says it keeps me out of mischief!”

Prodoehl didn’t have much time for mischief when he started on the snowshoes.

The troop supplied the two 4 by 8 sheets of plywood and Roman supplied the know-how and the help of his wife, Lucille.

Each snowshoe was soaked in hot water for half an hour. Then Prodoehl curved the tips in a woodpress for four hours.

The three-foot long snowshoes, stained brown, are not only authentic but also “custom made”—coming in different sizes depending on the boy.

On a recent hike through Whitnall Park, Troop 501 reported that the snowshoes worked beautifully.

Prodoehl didn’t know it at the time, but 50 years ago, while attending Boys’ Tech woodworking classes, he was learning the techniques needed for the snowshoes. Later he used the same principles in his job in steel fabrication at Falk Corp.

On and off while working at Falk Corp., Prodoehl made use of his woodworking skills—fixing the family wood toboggan after a run-in with a tree, for example—but it is in the last 10 years that he says he begun “to tackle anything.”

That includes a dollhouse for daughter Fleurette and later, over 300 pieces of doll furniture for Fleurette’s children. He patterned all the pieces after furniture in his house.

“I’ve made refrigerators, stoves, davenports, beds, rocking chairs…everything,” he says.

Even a grand piano made out of black walnut.

One Christmas Roman Prodoehl presented family members with handcarved horsedrawn sleighs. Used as centerpieces they are perfect for holding Christmas cards and candy.

Now he is working on a series of shadow boxes for son Ron. One is a miniature old-time saloon.

When summer comes Prodoehl puts away his miniatures and concentrates “on the big stuff”—picnic tables and benches, for example.

“I could be very busy every day of the week,” he says. “People call up and ask if I can make something…”

But although he prefers to take his time “and do what I want to” he can be quickly caught up in a challenge.

That happened recently when Prodoehl was walking through a store and noticed some shoe-boxes-the kind that hold polish and buffing material-selling for $25.

“I looked at them and thought, ‘Oh boy, I can put that together for five bucks,” he says.

So he did. Several of them. And gave them to his grandchildren.

Even after making 22 snowshoes and an entire Boy Scout troop happy, Roman Prodoehl remains stubbornly modest.

“A little whittling. A little carving. It turns out real nice.”

Leave it to grandson Peter to tell the whole story:

“Grandpa can make anything.”

Reading this 37 years later brings back a lot of memories, and brings with it a new perspective on where I came from, and who I am. I don’t think this article would have resonated with me so strongly 10 or even 15 years ago, but right now, it sure means a lot.


Blogging for 14 Years…

14 Years of Blogging!

Yeah that’s right kids…. 14 years. RasterWeb! started in 1997. We’ve been around longer than Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, and many other sites you use every day. We outlasted Vox, and Odeo, and too many others to even name. And while millions of people started and abandoned blogs, we kept going.

Heck, it wasn’t even called “blogging” back in 1997… (And no, sorry, “journaling” doesn’t count. It is/was not the same thing as blogging.)

Feel free to browse the archives or the tags and find some posts you may have missed. The first post was a simple birthday wish to my daughter. She is now 14 years older. Time, it flies, eh?


Welcome to Macintosh (Film Review)

I watched the documentary film “Welcome to Macintosh” and I liked it.

fanboi squeeee!
Photo by Alan Holding

I know… you’re like “No duh! Mr. Fanboi, of course you loved it!” but hey, I’ve got issues with Apple, and they do plenty of things I don’t like (they always have) but using computers created by Apple has been a part of my life for 30 years now… I don’t think there is a brand around I’ve been involved with for that long… well, been involved with, and haven’t grown to hate.

If you’ve been using Macs for a long time and been fascinated by Apple, or an actual fan, it’s worth watching. On the other hand, if you are a recent convert from the Windows world, and new to the Mac in just the past few years, it’s probably not for you. (But if I’m wrong, let me know…)

Welcome to Macintosh Screening
Photo courtesy of Nik Fletcher

One thing I feel wasn’t really touched on is that in the past few years Macs (and other Apple products) have become “lifestyle” items, where in the past I don’t think this was the case. The film did mention that in the mid-to-late 1990’s it was hard to be a Mac user. Damn straight it was… I was deep into it. I worked at a design firm/publishing company where we had tons of Macs, and seeing the unknown future of the Mac (and Apple!) back then was not easy. By the end of the lifecycle of Mac OS 9 (pre-OS X) I was almost ready to abandon the Mac. I was using FreeBSD as a server OS, and Windows was making in-roads and actually getting better… If the NeXT/Apple thing hadn’t happened, and Mac OS X hadn’t come along, things would have been dismal.

Looking back today, it’s easy to say that Steve Jobs and Mac OS X were the saviors of Apple… and I don’t know how much my design background plays into it, but I really do want to use beautiful, well designed things, and that’s where Apple shines, and in true Apple sense, design refers to how things work, and how they function on the inside, just as much as they refer to how things look on the outside.

So my recommendation of the film is, if you’ve used/liked/loved the Mac for 10 years or more, see it. You’ll find it fun, amusing, and informative. If you admire Apple as a brand, see it, as there’s some valuable insight into design and marketing that the Microsofts of the world will never get right. If you’re a die-hard Microsoft lover or Windows user… or hey, a Linux/open source dude… it may not interest you quite as much.

I mean… I liked it, but I guess I’m just an Apple fanboi… ;)


A Decade of RasterWeb!

On this day, ten years ago, a weblog named RasterWeb! appeared for the first time on the internet.

Today, it is one of the the longest continuing running weblogs on the Internet.

This site may have played a big role in several important trends.

  • It may have helped bootstrap the blogging world.
  • It was the one of the early sites involved in podcasting.

Ok, with apologies to Dave Winer for the above, this is the 10 year anniversary of this weblog. When I say that, I mean that this is one of the original blogs. If you go to jjg’s the page of only weblogs and look at “ye olde skool” list, those are the folks who were around at the same time, pre-2000, and blogging regularly. Follow those links today, and many are gone, some are still around but on hiatus, and many have lost their archives due to moving to different weblog systems over the years. Scripting News started in April 1997, CamWorld in June of 1997, and RasterWeb! in August of 1997. For each of those you can still get to the archives, and the first posts. I consider this somewhat important. We’re bloggers, who believe in the long-term. I’ve seen people who say they’ve been blogging since 1996, and when pushed they say how they had a journal or a Geocities site that is long gone, or they changed sites 5 times or whatever. Blogging is somewhat about the permanence, the fact that you stand behind what you say, and people can link to it, and that link is gonna be there a month or a year, or 5 years later. I worked meticulously to re-write any links when I moved from to many years back. My first thought, as a blogger, was that I didn’t want to break the links of people who linked to things I was saying. I hated when big media sites did it, so I didn’t want to.

So while Dave Winer and Cameron Barrett are pretty well known, I am definitely not “internet famous” in any way. I don’t live in California, or New York, and haven’t done anything amazing to bring attention to myself, I’ve just been blogging for 10 years. I’m probably most well known as being the guy who told Drew (of Dawn and Drew fame) that he should try podcasting. That’s just fine with me. I’ve gotten a lot out of blogging over the years. No, it didn’t help me get a job when I needed one, or make any amazing business deals, but what it has done is help connect me with many amazing people over the years, people I consider my friends. This to me is much more valuable than anything else, the connections I’ve made, and the people I’ve met. That’s what it’s all about.

Now, on a less serious note, I’ve take Cam out of the list of “continually running weblogs” since he often goes months without a post, and then may only have 1 in a month, so really, after Dave’s Scripting News, I think RasterWeb! is the second longest continually running weblog on the internet with all archives still available and all old links still working” So there. As soon as Dave quits, I will earn the title! And that’s the real reason I keep doing this. (But not really, I’m just kidding about that part.)

So that’s it. 10 years. I look forward to another 10. See ya on the internets…


Podcasting Correction

Through some odd set of circumstances, I ended up searching Amazon for my own name, and found that I was mentioned in the Podcasting Bible.

Podcasting Bible: Page 40

In the image above you’ll see some highlighted text that says “Amphetadesk, an RSS newsreader developed by Pete Prodoehl” The problem is, that text is inaccurate and/or misleading. I’m not one to take credit for things I didn’t do. (But wait, isn’t the history of Podcasting filled with people taking credit for what they didn’t do?) Morbus Iff was the lead developer of Amphetadesk. Morbus is a friend of mine, and I was a big fan of Amphetadesk. I don’t know that any of my code or suggestions ever went into Amphetadesk, but I did create a skin for Amphetadesk which enabled the links found in RSS 2.0 feed with enclosures.

It appears the Podcasting Bible was published by Wiley in February 2007. Oddly enough, some of my writing oes appear in another Wiley book, Videoblogging. I mentioned that in the post I am a (Contributing) Author!

Anyway, if you want to give me credit for things I didn’t do, please feel free to do so… but you should know that I may try to set the record straight.