I suppose there was a time when four-score and six (86) would have been an acceptable old age for a curious soul to reach. Not enough now. Back then? Books were semi-precious. Knowledge had a useful shelf-life. Travel was slow. Telegraphs worked and phone calls were likely to be on a party line.
Between market closing Friday and opening Monday, the broader perspective on Life matters. Times have changed, no doubt. Knowledge is not even semi-precious anymore. Travel is either stopped or stampedes. Telegraphers like me are history fodder. And why call when a two line text handles it?
Fortunately, Shop Life is Slower
And a lot more certain.
I was struck this week reading Charles Babbage’s 1832 book “On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures – a Free Ebook (from gutenberg.org)” where he claimed:
“1. There exists, perhaps, no single circumstance which distinguishes our country more remarkably from all others, than the vast extent and perfection to which we have carried the contrivance of tools and machines for forming those conveniences of which so large a quantity is consumed by almost every class of the community. The amount of patient thought, of repeated experiment, of happy exertion of genius, by which our manufactures have been created and carried to their present excellence, is scarcely to be imagined. If we look around the rooms we inhabit, or through those storehouses of every convenience, of every luxury that man can desire, which deck the crowded streets of our larger cities, we shall find in the history of each article, of every fabric, a series of failures which have gradually led the way to excellence; and we shall notice, in the art of making even the most insignificant of them, processes calculated to excite our admiration by their simplicity, or to rivet our attention by their unlooked-for results.”
The problem of human invention is, regrettably, that it’s a lot like Bitcoin mining – or the Fed’s trying to print faster-than-compounding-rate-of-interest – it is a diminishing-returns enterprise.
Because when the father of the “calculating engine” was observing things in 1832, a societal shift from making to manufacturing was underway. But the BIG breakthroughs: Electronics for communication, and carriages for transport of all commercial goods, were already commonplace.
All the best “invention shops” in the world can offer now is incremental change. We have wheels – four of em on most cars . The big incremental change of the last Depression was of one-horse that ate hay replaced for many than drank gasoline.
Such we call progress.
Surgery Waiting Room
This heady consideration of whether “incremental improvement” is worth the while population explosion, God knows how many wars, and isn’t compounding complexity as dangerous as gain-of-function research?
About here, Tuesday morning Elaine’s surgeon came out, announced the good outcome, and asked me if I had any questions? “Well, er…can’t think of anything on my list…” I sounded the dolt. The brain was stuck in a sub-routine; still mulling Babbage’s incrementalism and whether that drove a turn of the century Patent official to claim everything worthwhile had been invented by 1900, or thereabouts.
Charles Duell gets the credit (blame) for that. But he was more than half a century late to the party:
“Another possible origin of this famous statement may actually be found in a report to Congress in 1843 by an earlier Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth. In it Ellsworth states, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” This quote was apparently then mispresented and attributed to Duell, who held the same office in 1899.”
No matter who said it, though, there seems no end to “re-invention” and “re-visualizing” a design. Take this fold-down shelf bracket.
Not terribly expensive. Don’t mind the ham radio antenna. Thing is, when you don’t need them, they fold down out of the way. Nice mod.
I bought an extra set for an overhead awning system for the front of the shop due to be cobbled next week (or the one after). Idea is that fold-down awning out of R-panel would keep the south shop wall shaded. Which in turn would lower sweat shop conditions in August to Dickens’ era levels.
Shops and Technology
Years ago, my late uncle John ( a Seattle Fire chief) amazed me at how clean and organized his home shop always looked. Seldom – if ever – a piece of paper in sight.
Instead, there were children’s “magic drawing” tablets. Just a couple of those. You’d write on a light gray smooth plastic. Somehow, under that, a black wax substrate would stick to the plastic and it was readable. To erase? Peel the clear/gray sheet up – the black substrate disconnected – and you had a clean slate to start over again.
These were too simple, apparently. Or – like shop courses in schools – may have been sued out of existence.
Instead – half a dozen or more years ago – out came Boogie Boards and I’ve had a black one in the shop for years. Little guy (8 inches) but definitely useful. If for no other reason than reducing fire risk by eliminating paper.
I decided to treat us to a much larger one (15 inch diagonal). I’ll let you know how the gkcity LCD Writing Tablet, 15 Inch goes next week (assuming it arrives on time). But for $30 with a $7-off coupon, the risk seemed slight.
Even now, the only papers going out into the shop are the strips of typing paper to set the print head clearances on the 3D printer farm. With two printers, you can at least claim “industrial homesteader” status.
Which gets me back to a key point Babbage makes: The cut-off line between “making” and “manufacturing” is when the quantity moves above one.
Following Babbage’s logic, if One is Making a thing, Two or more becomes Manufacturing. Logically then, Three means Technology is the Making of Too Many.
Some pensive mornings like this, I swear we’re coming back to “making” since
“manufacturing” and “technology” have ruined the art in most everything else. Even “good” computer code is only “made.” Code’s got a soul that shouldn’t be whored out to run-time traffickers. But that’s just me. A “made” man.
Label Printer Needed
Another must-have do-dad is a label printer and a lifetime supply or label stock. Because while most of the tools are in “logical drawers” (e.g. Twisty tools, Squeezy tools, wrenches for wenches, and Sharps are part of the mix), memory of the contents of cardboard boxes fades with age.
I’ve got that one beat now.
Should mention those “CowPots” *(cow manure pressed biodegradable pots) are working just dandy in the garden. Someone asked for an update. Thing is while peat pots are cheaper, they have virtually zero nutritional value. So says the local garden show.
Prepper Test Garden
Back in my sailing days, “prepping” consisted of six-weeks of freeze-dried food, 200-gallons of water (and a watermaker) plus a few charts with Sailing Directions to the South Seas.
I still think prepping should be a loaf of fresh bread from the galley and a gunny sack of fresh oysters bought from a dredge working south of Agate Pass. Between Braindead Island (west of Seattle) and Poulsbo, Washington.
With no native oyster barges on Texas rivers and Elaine’s green thumb laid up (with the rest of her) gardening has survived even my excesses:
The tomato plant (lower left center) is the one LOOB sent me. He wasn’t sure how it would fare here. But looks like a beefsteak or Romanesque type.
If Frederick Winslow Taylor Gardened…
He might come to the same conclusions I have. After tinkering a lot with hydroponics, fact is that there’s less work time (*and a much looser schedule) if you just plant early, mulch like hell to keep the weeds down). Less than an hour a week – maybe half that not counting watering.
Yes, I co-authored a couple of books on (MyGroPonics) and J.B. Slear did a much better job than me. Because he went right to simple drip-hydroponics and a single crop (humungous tomatoes).
Someone else (an idiot, as it turns out) tried to do too much. Since I didn’t have an R.O. filter for the garden to “normalize” our alkaline water (7.9-8.1 usually) I was going through gallons of acid to sour things properly. Time sink. Who needs ’em?
You will see the left-middle tomato plant (mid frame) is a darker green. That plant is another experiment. Chris Tyreman tipped me (assuming no urinary tract infections or diseases!) that human urine just kicks it for toms. Judging by the growth and color, I’d have to agree.
Lately, I’ve found myself asking if “peeing on peas” would be good. But there are limits, even at summer beer consumption levels. For details, check out Gee Whiz: Human Urine Is Shown to Be an Effective Agricultural Fertilizer – in Scientific American.
I’m being very careful and with just one experimental plant. Surely, the agrichemical complex must have squired in laws against such practical knowledge.
Word around the fence line is cabbage and squash have hired a big-name Houston law firm. Claiming golden showers are illegal without consent.
“Tell em to piss off. This is Texas,” my consigliere advised. “Besides, Ure not planning to run for public office, are you?”
“Do I have time to visit Moscow before the World War?”
Write when you get rich,