Thursday – Able vs Amiable

[date Thu, Sep 8, 2011 at 1:41 PM]


The alarm bell has been ringing non-stop for years. The able are old and retiring. The young? For the most part, amiable but unable.

Gubermint solution? You don’t want to know….. it will only upset you.

Source of problem? Now THAT’S an interesting question.

Anyone who knows me well and many people who are acquainted with my daily activity will conclude that I spend a lot of time “mechanically occupied”.

Those who have been in my presence while working on machinery over the years will have noticed my degeneration……. At one time (ah! the folly of youth!) I loved to take things apart, see how they worked, repair them, and on to the next. Now when I take something apart the most likely reaction I have is a continuous stream of vindictive, cursing the engineers / designers / builders of the machinery I’m tinkering to fix. What happened? Was it me…………… or ……………… them?

How is it that a vehicle built in 1939 is easier to work on, cheaper to fix, and gets better fuel mileage than an equivalently sized vehicle of today? What would happen if the miracle of computer control, the miracle of metallurgy, the miracle of robotics were used to produce a modern equivalent of a ’32 Ford sedan?

I’m not a fan of Maclean’s Magazine. I found the following article to be very insightful. Take a read:

Here’s a quote that is a truth I have witnessed many times in recent years –

“….by all accounts, we have the least handy, most mechanically deficient generation of young people. Ever.”

Another concept rings true for me – the obsession with academics. I am not adverse to academic pursuit. Whomever puts it on a high pedestal should re-think. Stephen Hawking is vaunted as being a peer to Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein yet the practical value of his work has yet to be realized (it never will be is my prediction). One of the clients in my workshop worked on Mr. Hawking’s wheel chair – while employed at an advanced technology shop in Vancouver. This isn’t a “chicken and egg” argument (although we could represent both sides in that one), nor a “zero sum” argument (if the end was nigh, who gets to be “saved”?), but a “cooperative / free market” argument. Who wipes Stephen Hawking’s ass? Does it bring job satisfaction?

I remember a trip from Calgary to the Okanagan many years ago. My 1950 Ford van (ex McGavin’s Bakery) filled with young people (friends?) who could socialize like nobody’s business, enjoy themselves to no end, with heads full of grandiose visions of a “better world” – down with the man! I was right there with them…… right on, man!

That damned old Ford had a very weak fuel system (the flathead motor was notorious for wiping out the fuel pump lobe on the camshaft, and equally notorious for a condition called “vapor lock”) and “broke down” about every 50 miles or big hill, whichever came first.

The first “break down” came on the old road to Banff. Remember, these are the days of AM radio. No cellular phones. The 8 track was new technology. What an adventure! Everyone was in good spirits (the consumables of the day may have influenced that attitude).

While I worked under the hood of that tired old beast, the rest stripped off and went skinny dipping in the nearby water. I remember wishing I was naked in the water with the girls instead of sweating under the hood of an old van….. but it was an interesting problem to solve. After a period of time, I managed to start the truck, and off we went. A sunny day and on the road again! Buoyant spirits…..

By the fourth “break down” (in retrospect a combo of no cam lift and vapor lock), the spirits weren’t so buoyant, although they undoubtedly were high. Mutiny! There’s me slaving over a hot engine, and my compatriots (down with the man! the universe is endless! we are all connected! pass the joint! gimme a beer! the Stones are better than the Who! et cetera) are abandoning ship. Thumbs out, smiles on, “love you, man!”, and one by one, the riders became hitch-hikers, and rode off. Of course, the girls (they were NOT women or ladies) got picked up first. So goes life…..

Some time later that day…….. much later……. after dark……. sitting in the bar in Enderby reflecting on the trip so far: what fun I was going to have in the Okanagan, how could we catch up with those girls, where to stay that evening. What would have happened had I not been able to mend it? Never crossed my mind! Those days in the late ’60’s early ’70’s I probably had less than $20 Cdn in my jeans…. Didn’t worry about the drive back to Cowgary either. One of many adventures in the younger days…..

How many children do you know who would be dumb enough to go on a road trip with little or no money in a frail undependable vehicle (you don’t want to know what the tires were like) with no support infrastructure other than their optimism to overcome?

There is a point to this rambling. There is a physical world. Human genius has made living easy in that physical world. But….. the designers of machinery today are not on the foundry floor or in the grease pit. They are “once removed” (at least) from the scene of the crime, taking direction from company “politicians” rather than that most stern of mistresses, Mother Nature. They design on computers and program other computers to make our mechanical objects. This is not the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid) and is often neither elegant, nor inexpensive, nor affective or efficient. Anyone remember the vehicles of the ’70’s fondly? If you did, you don’t know beans about how they were built the way they were, for what reason. California here I come……

Take a look at this (original “Porgy and Bess” from 1940), especially the street scenes from the period. You can empathize with what you think you see, but you CANNOT empathize in context. This is only 70 years past!:


Advances in technology are the product of inventiveness by individuals. We all share the benefits (although some think we don’t “share” enough). Despite the advances, the infrastructures that bind our society are crumbling. Causes? Underfunding. Oversight. Complacency. Stigmatization. Politics. Changing cultural morĂ©s. Lack of understanding. Add your thoughts here……………….

can’t forget that god-devil itself, Human Nature combined with Human Genius.

It is calculated that during Roman times of the mid 1st century BC, Italy’s population was 7.5 million souls, of which 3 million were slaves.

No one had a Case backhoe or Caterpillar D8H ‘dozer or even a Ford 8N tractor. Imagine that! All infrastructure, all production, all labor was provided by humans and domesticated animals, using the basic pulleys, gears, and levers of geometry. War was a convenient method of acquiring more of the labor commodity, and the human genius commodity too. Hence, more ability to provide the various infrastructures of Roman life.

Leaving the free citizen time to tinker with those pursuits which are not life supporting (physically) but are of great spiritual / intellectual value…… quality of life perhaps?

So here we are today, with exquisite tools, machines, and ever expanding technology, but stuck in the same old human social and societal structure in the same old conscious amalgam of protoplasmic structures called a body……. Talking is often an intellectual cathartic, but doing is necessary for survival in the physical world. The garden of Eden in terms of spare time, but Dry Gulch Valley in terms of slef worth. The pendulum has reached the end of it’s arc, da? Or, are there multiple pendulums (labor, idle rich, political elite, morons, idle poor, genii, etc.) reaching synchronicity? Observe:


So is the culture self synchronizing or approaching critical mass? Is it more like this modular robot – re-assembles when disrupted / torn apart? See:


The major obstacle to advancement is not the hard sciences or the technologies, or lack of human genius.

Do any of us Baby Boomers think we are handing the reigns reins to a compassionate, sympathetic, supportive generation? Indeed, are we handing over control, or is it being wrenched from our (collective) hands? Have we done a (collective) “good job” of preserving the liberties and freedoms our parents left us after WWII? Is Canada and the world a better place now when we are leaving than when we arrived?

Here’s the solution on some people’s mind. Get rid of the Baby Boomers! They are the ones who destroyed the world! Read about forgiving us here:

September 7th was the beginning of “the Blitz” in Britain – when German bombers started the process of bombing civilian targets in Britain to demoralize the citizenry. It was 76 consecutive days before the attacks on London were interrupted. 40,000 civilian lives (1/2 of which were Londoners – that’s more people than the city of Vernon) and over 1,000,000 homes destroyed or damaged in London alone. Here’s a short tribute:

Us Canadian boomers (with few exceptions) have been spared those horrors. So spared that some of us think they didn’t happen, or it wasn’t as terrible as it has been represented, or can’t happen again. Give yer head a shake……

As Mr. W.S. Churchill said “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

As Mr. Adolf Hitler said “The spark of a genius exists in the brain of the truly creative man from the hour of his birth. True genius is always inborn and never cultivated, let alone learned.”

Here’s to new solutions which honor all great things…………. and don’t culminate in “Boomer Genocide”…

Joe (Potato Head) Mekanic

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