Friday, June 23, 2006

Machine World

The scene at the boat house involved two machine-savvy guys lowering some 1000 pound metal engine (an old one, but now rebuilt) down into the hull of a boat. The one man forgot the chain was too short, plus had removed the safety. With about 2 or 3 inches to go, maybe more, the chain slipped from the overhead ratcheted pully device (near the apex of an A frame), and the engine crashed to the floor. But it did not go through the hull.

So many scenarios containing worse consequences branched away from this moment. We immediately counted our blessings, thanked a Loving God (alluding to the title of a book written by a peer mate), and found a longer chain. My role was observer, though my weight on the back of the boat also helped with the placement of the engine, which was eventually rescrewed to the floor.

Having grown up outside the USA for many years (late 60s to mid 70s), opportunities to absorb car culture were limited. I never did constructivist discovery learning around an old beater, although I watched neighborhood older kids get involved in that -- before hopping a jet to Italy in third grade, and immersion within the EUR (or "Mussolini Village" as we Americans sometimes called it), and later Viale Parioli #25 near Piazza Ungheria.

Piazza Ungheria, Rome
(a Google Earth view)

[One of my best friends in those Parioli days: Kijoon, younger son of the South Korean ambassador to Italy -- our respective homes were within walking distance (years later, I visited him in Seoul, but have since lost track of him)].

I've deconstructed this or that device in my day, plus assembled radios on a breadboard by poking wires into spring terminals, following a wiring diagram, but I never learned internal combustion in any intimate way. I am not fluent in the namespace of flanges and manifolds, although I do know what a crimped pipe looks like, having crimped some myself (not intentionally, under my kitchen sink).

So I got started on driving around age 28. True, dad had me out in the Chevy Nova in Manila a few times. But neither Princeton nor Jersey City had me lusting for a loud smoking thing needing expensive parking privileges, plus insurance, plus other liabilities. A horse would have been as convenient (i.e. not very). I stayed with the bus and Amtrak (Conrail, NJ Transit...), and later the PATH train to and from Journal Square.

Journal Square, Jersey City
(a Google Earth view)

Some years later (late 1980s), now back in Portland, David Lansky and Carol Slaughter (later Sleigers) gave me opportunities to mangle a transmission and get my first speeding ticket (respectively).

This induction into the world of freeways, with me behind the wheel, was back when I was at CUE, then serving the State of Oregon as a WordPerfect trainer and macro writer, helping Disability Determination Services implement (not architect) its maze of denial and acceptance forms, in the form of macro- generated form letters (a primitive, slow moving protocol and API, conducted through pre Internet snailmail and involving such things as doctor visits and more letters).

CUE had the contract, which also involved developing Spanish language versions of these letters. My need to get to and from Salem in a hurry, in support of this contract, is what got me access to Carol-of-CUE's car -- and the speeding ticket.

Then Matt helped me buy my first motorvehicle, with some money inherited from gandma Margie: a Honda Civic hatchback and my first long term relationship with a member of that machine world species. It was perhaps unkind to nickname her Gutless. She got me to Montana and back that time with Tom-of-TRP. I basically drove her into the ground.

After the above boat engine episode, I drove home by way of a Trader Joe's in Hollywood (a name collision with an LA-based namespace), in part to buy potluck goodies for the Wanderers party. Glenn is all moved back in, Doug Strain having opened a scholarship through ISEPP, which makes him a senior fellow, plus a paid troubleshooter (there's already lots of drama around a broken sewer line betwixt ISEPP properties and the City of Portland).

He talked about the grants application process he'd become involved with during the party, plus showcased some of the fine handmade jewelry he makes. I think Glenn should meet up with Joe Clinton, and am working on making that happen.

At this party we had two male-female couples, two males with off-stage spouses (I am in that category), one currently uncoupled female and one such male. Around Hollywood, you can legally marry and unmarry as many times as you want, although too many times gets to be impractical.

Dawn and I met through CUE. She was living on a horse farm at the time, partnered with √Člise, now married to Les and still into horses. We formed Dawn Wicca and Associates (DWA, a partnership) well before getting married, which we did twice (with no unmarried in between).

Dawn had been married before (I had not), and still coparented with her ex around Alexia, with me coparenting as well. Alexia is now grown up and married to her boyfriend of many years. She too had been previously married, to a soldier in the US Army, stationed at Fort Campbell in Tennessee and Kentucky. They'd met in Portland, through Rocky Horror Picture Show and other venues. Alexia quit Willamette University, continuing her college in Clarksville, where they lived off base.

My erstwhile son in law was later reassigned to South Korea where the USA maintained an antediluvean set of bases, presumably as a counter to North Korea, although this political division was more on the minds of Korean War era vets than on the minds of new generation Koreans.

[ On our Fuller Projection, we just saw a lot of biosphere (definitely finite, though of course a steady importer of fresh solar gradient energy), along with the usual monkey-brained shenanigans (e.g. lots of choreographed mud wrestling, with the guys urging the gals to get into it ("girls gone wild" they called it)). ]

My uncles and cousins up north talk machine language really well (internal combustion, but also gravel and rock, even gold mine -- except maybe my Uncle Bill, who talks pre-WWI submarine (not that he's old enough to have served in one, just that's been a focus of his scholarship)).

[Update: Bill talks internal combustion pretty well, but Uncle Bo takes the cake for rebuilding that Dude Car in Denver (non-Ford guts, but with the body of a Ford Model A rescued from a lake bed). Uncle Howard, meantime, has just built his own boring machine from cannibalized parts, for the job of rebuilding some giant front-loader elbow joints, a process that requires round holes to turn square.]

The open source video clips database I'm planning, although currently built around the premise of Geek TV (meaning about a lot of ethereal topics, like tcp/ip) would work well for propagating more traditional machine world memes ala Popular Mechanics and O'Reilly's Make: magazine.

Which isn't to say you can get around doing hands-on.

All of these subcultures require actual practice, not just passive viewing. But getting to watch some favorite role models actually doing the jobs you aspire to do someday, is a promising beginning.