| Oh my God! Does this mean all my woodshop classes for next year
| (2006-07) at the high school where I teach have been dropped? Does this
| mean I am now out of work? Are my fellow IA teachers who teach masonry,
| auto shop and computer repair also out of work? Do we now hold our
| department meetings at the unemployment office?
| The scenario you present might be true in some places, but not in all.
| I have been asked (along with a few of my cohorts)to work on a funding
| grant to expand our vocational offerings in our school, and maybe the
| district as a whole.
In the Seattle area, the aerospace community has been complaining for
several years about just that, and it isn't until the concrete heads in the
legislature realized they were chasing all the skilled labor and shops out
of state have they realized what a skill shortage there is. A day late and
a dollar short, but better late than never. Unfortunately, when I hired on
at Boeing, with a million others barely able to breathe, they trained me on
company time. Got a whole lot of useless folks in the process. This time,
they're training the new hires on their time, for two weeks. A coworker of
mine got hit in the head by a fast moving rivet die. Seems the gal she was
teaching thought it was okay to put the die in the gun while holding the
trigger down. Absent the retainer spring, of course. As soon as she did it
the second time, just minutes later, they told her to take a hike. That's
why they're doing it differently this time around, as the dead wood gets
weeded out quickly. They aren't kicking people out for not having the
skills, they're removing them for not having a trainable attitude.
I recently got a very cool new job. One of the reasons I got the job
was the last line on my resume: "With the right attitude all skill deficits
can be overcome." That impresses the hell out of folks, especially when
your attitude seems to match the resume. (I once had the honor of bringing
onto my crew an older Greek lady who had no skills but just the exact
attitude I wanted. She worked her ass off and made the folks who had been
around for years look like amateurs once I taught her what she needed to
know.) I had also showed them pictures of some machines I had recently
built, which the interviewers (a structured interview with several folks
there) were almost fighting over. They wanted someone who could "do things"
instead of just talking about stuff. My fingernails being a bit chewed up
and slightly dirty helped a bit, I suspect.
My last job was at Microdyne which built telemetry equipment for the
aerospace industry. I was hired as a test technician on the module
line. I was told I only had six weeks to prove that I could do at least
80% of the average work done by everyone else on the line, and that I
would work with another tech as a trainer for the full six weeks. I
started on a Wednesday morning. By the Friday afternoon of that week my
training was terminated and I was assigned a test stamp. The following
Monday afternoon a "Committee" showed up at my bench to "Order" me to
slow down, that i was already producing more work than anyone else in
the department, and "You will slow down, if you know what was good for
you." I smiled and thanked them, then told them that if they didn't
want to look bad, they had three choices:
1: Learn to work faster.
2: Learn to work smarter.
3: Get out of my way because I was hired to do a job, not to win a
popularity contest. Then I offered to teach them to be better techs and
they laughed at me. One asked "How can you teach us anything?" I
shrugged and said, I don't know, but if I can do the job better and
faster after just three days, you might be surprised. ;-)
They informed me that I was rude, arrogant, and opinionated. Within
a couple weeks they started to ask questions. I answered, and got
stupid looks, but they did what I suggested, and they came back with big
smiles to tell ne it solved the problem. They didn't know that most of
my electronics work had been mission critical jobs, ad you didn't have
time to waste, so you studied the manuals and schematics ahead of time
so you knew how it worked.
They finally realized I wasn't bragging about my skills, that I had
worked very hard to develop them, and that I willing shared them with
anyone willing to learn.
I was there a little over four years, and ended up working with
almost every part of the company because of my, "It will be done. Done
Right. Done on time. Done on budget." attitude. On day my boss
commented, "You just won't take NO for an answer." I smiled and said,
"You're right, and I won't take YES, if I don't believe them."
Management kept coming around with new "Quality Statements" we were
supposed to memorize. I shoved the printout back into the HR manager's
hands and told him I wouldn't lower my standards for anyone. He turned
red and asked, "Well, What is your standard?" I grinned and told him
that "I do the best possible job with the tools and materials available,
and strive to do even better." His jaw dropped, and he walked away
muttering under his breath. ;-)
I was a volunteer advisor for the electronics program at the Lake
County Votech, until they decided to shut the course down and replace it
with a computer repair course. The "Instructor" was the school system's
IT director, and he was teaching with bad materials from the XT days.
No one had made the boards he was teaching about for over 10 years, and
he was having to read it from a ratty old library book, because he
didn't know what he was doing. All he knew was how to admin a small
Service to my country? Been there, Done that, and I've got my DD214 to
The sad thing is, most of these young people don't realize they're
deficient. You can always spot this when one of them asks: "is this
something *I* can do?" which shows they have NO idea what the project
requires or what they may may be able to contribute to it, skill-wise. Sad.
Dweller in the cellar
Home Page: http://www.seanet.com/~jasonrnorth
Our culture, such as it is, informs our children that working with
their hands is beneath them and that self reliance is no more than
knowing which phone number to call when you need something.
It takes some strong involvement on a parent's part to expose children
to the joys of doing for yourself; the joys of making, rather than
managing, and the satisfaction to be gained from having a basic
understanding of the things that inhabit and sometimes seem to
overwhelm our day to day lives.
In a society that seems to be so focused on happiness as a result of
the acquisition of objects, one would think that simple curiosity
about the making and maintenance of those objects would drive people
to gain some knowledge in those areas.
It's having the bling, rather than making it that drives them.
We've managed to outsource our contact with the fundamental
necessities of life in the current age - much to our eventual peril,
I can see the next edition of the Foxfire series dealing with how the
old dudes managed to set up their own Wireless Internet connections,
changed their own light bulbs, cleaned their own gutters, and just
maybe - wiped their own ass.
Not that I'm cynical.
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
caused some of those skills are rarely needed, I rarely get any flats
anymore, haven't had one in ten years, I used to get them at least once
a year 25 years ago.
TV's can't be repaired
now it's cheaper to buy a new lawnmower then to fix one (due to China
the price of a new one is less now then 25 years ago, and our income
has gone way up, the cost of parts, however, has stayed the same)
car's rarely break now, and they need very little mainteance (tune
ups), yes you still can and need to change your brakes, alternators,
starters but it simply doesn't justify the cost of a well appointed
home mechanics workshop, like it did before when the typical repair
list was twice as long and 5 times more frequent
there are basic skills that one needs to deal with
but think back to when you were a teenager, I can think of a large
percentage that lack basic skills back then, I don't think it's any
No, its just the workshop has changed, it can live in a computer, for
instance, workshops are alive and well, they are just different,
today's workshop can involved hooking up a wireless router to a wired
LAN that supports Appletalk, before your time it was thatching a roof
I'm not sure about the lack of interest. I work part time in a Woodcraft
store and our classes are usually filled way before the class takes place.
We give at least one class a week. The only class I can remember not being
full was one called "Wiring your workshop" and I got the feeling most people
would rather hire a professional to do that than take a chance on burning the
place down :-).
We sell one heck of a lot of books as well.
IMNSHO there seems to be no lack of interest in learning in our area.
It's turtles, all the way down
When I hear or read comments like these, a little shiver hits me. My dad
tells the story of how Dad's grandfather (an increasingly successful farmer
in Eastern Colorado) once told Dad's grandmother that she didn't need to
patch overalls anymore, it was cheaper and more efficient to buy new ones.
That was in the late 1920's; we all know what happened in the 1930's --
especially in the dustbowl areas.
If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough
On Sat, 05 Aug 2006 20:32:33 -0700, Mark & Juanita
Your great grandfather and Steve were/are both correct about
their current conditions. What happens if current
conditions deteriorate a bit?
Steve wrote, "No, its just the workshop has changed, it can
live in a computer, for instance, workshops are alive and
well, they are just different, today's workshop can involved
hooking up a wireless router to a wired LAN that supports
Appletalk, before your time it was thatching a roof"
A wired LAN is an artifact of the symbolic economy. It is a
Good Thing, right now. But if what you need is a new roof,
and there is no longer much demand for wireless routers,
LANs, Appletalk, etc., (as would be the case in a post-SHTF
scenario) then being able to mess with LANs and such, but
not roofs, leaves you out.
Summum ius summa inuria.
There are plenty of roofers and roofing companies in my area. When I
needed a roof replacement several years ago, they did it in a tiny
fraction of the time (and effort) it would have taken me to figure out
how to do it, how to order the materials, how to fix the mistakes I
would inevitably make, how to finish the job.
Should I learn roofing now? Not hardly, as my own roof will likely not
need patching in the decades ahead of me. And I have no desire to make
it a career.
Ditto for welding, horseshoeing, logging, midwifing, and all sorts of
other jobs which some/many think will be up-n-coming career options in
the Post-Industrial Economy. ("You, too, can become a farrier. Just
call 1-800-HOR-SHOE for information on our study at home course!")
I expect that the "symbolic economy," as you call it, will become even
more important after a Big Event (SHTF, TEOTWAWKI, whatever). Wireless
networks, even over radio (and satellites, which will remain largely
unaffected) will be used to trade options and access to things.
Consider the rise of cellphones in Mogadishu after the civil war.
E-Bay and services of that sort will become MORE important, not LESS
important. Think about it. Combine online barter and sales with
jitney-type delivery services and new payment approaches and one has a
(And vehicles will still be running. This is separate subject, but
there are many, many options for fueling. NG will not vanish, biofuels
are readily made, and even all-electric vehicles are here....one of my
neighbors has a large photovoltaic installation sufficient to charge up
his fleet of vehicles....a few entrepreneurs like this, mediating
trades via satphones and Mobile WiMax, could do quite well trading the
already-extant supply of tools, materials, and forms of money.)
Look to Hong Kong for one example, to Mogadishu for the other extreme.
Both remain heavily "symbolic."
I didn't mean to be specific about roofing, or any other
You could be right. I just don't see wireless routers and
such as being critical parts of the post-post-modern
economy. I hope we don't find out.
Summum ius summa inuria.
TV's can be repaired, but it probably not cost effective unless you
enjoy puzzles. My wife does crossword puzzles, I do different kinds of
puzzles. Yesterday I repaired the dishwasher. One of the hinges had
fatigued and failed. It was less work to remove the door and hinge,
weld the hinge, and reassemble than it would have been to go buy
another dishwasher and install it.
If you are looking for lawn mower parts, look on Ebay. Lots of places
that sell things as pistons and rings at reasonable prices.
Cars may not break as often, but they do still have problems. I need
to pull the gasolene tank on my truck and fix the fuel gauge sensor.
It won't take a well appointed home mechanic workshop to do most of it.
Fixing the sensor might. Have not seen what the problem is.
But are these basic skills in todays world. To me basic skills today
are more about how to determine who is a good dentist, auto mechanic,
plumber, etc. How to use Ebay and Craigslist, to find the things you
want and need. Figuring out what stocks to buy is more important than
being able to create you own well. Knowing how to find information
when you need it is a basic skill.
I grew up around an uncle who literally rebuilt his entire house. He
knows how to do it all. I helped some while growing up, but looked at
all as grunt work and took no interest in watching what the man was
I'm paying for that now. There are some projects I'll take on, but I
regret not taking a bigger interest in what could have been a great
So at times, I have to grudgingly call in a guy - an electrician,
plumber or carpenter to do things I wish I could.
On the other hand, I haven't owned a home in years, so had no real
need to fix things. If it broke, I called the landlord.
My wife and I recently bought a house, so I wish I knew more.
But I'm also dedicated to learning more as I go along, so I hope to
reach a point in the future of being able to handle at least some
But yeah, I do have a workbench area and it's getting more and more
use so I'm happy about that. I just wish I had paid more attention as
My father literally built his house -- cement work,
plumbing, framing, siding, wiring, roofing, everything. I
am somewhat embarrassed that I will probably hire my roof
replaced. It comes down to 2 factors: he HAD to (no money);
and I don't want to. I'm sure I could redo the roof if I
really needed to. I used to do stuff like that all the
time. Now I'm lazy (and old) -- and I want it done right,
Summum ius summa inuria.
In many cases those factors are changing. You may have the money to hire
someone, but it is becoming increasingly difficult in some areas to find
someone to hire who will actually do the job correctly. In more and more
cases I'm finding I have to do a job myself to get it done right.
In once case I had an auto repair done several times by several
different dealers (some under warranty) that all failed again in short
order. I finally got fed up and did the job myself, found evidence of
how incompetent they were while tearing into it myself and have not had
a recurrence of the problem since I fixed it correctly myself.
I've built 3 houses including one 3 storey one of 5400 sq ft. That
taught me not to build houses. Unfortunately I found a lovely piece of
land on waterfront. I could afford the land and some building
materials. I couldn't afford to pay for labour unless I sold one of my
other properties, which I wasn't going to do. So, I built another
house. At least I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Finished
the house then started on the shop (I built a small temporary shop
first, of course).
I did contract out the slab for the big workshop, tho. There's 20 cubic
metres of concrete in the slab on top of the 16 cubic metres in the
footings. The rest I'm doing myself.
People like us *can* do it if we have to or want to. Others - can't.
I've gotten a great deal of amusement watching the architect g/f of a
friend of mine realise just how limited her knowledge base was when it
came to actually building a place. She & he have managed to build a 24'
x 20' shed in the same time I built a house. I had to lend them some
tools, teach them how to use others and explain why, sometimes, 'near
enough' is ok if 'perfect' is going to take 10X as long.
Also that hand sanding boards with 400 wet & dry isn't a real
productive activity :-) Better to go 80 grit, 120, 180 etc. And use a
power sander, or better still, paint it & forget it. It was only a
facia board after all....
My 3 kids have no real interest in the skills I have, and I've never
barred them from the workshop. Rather play computer games. Of my
siblings, I was the only one to have an interest in this sort of stuff.
Lots of tools about. Shrug. I forsee an interesting retirement fixing
stuff for my daughters in the years to come, assuming that their
eventual partners turn oout as useless as the majority these days.
If they can find me when they need me, that is.
I lived in Alaska for 3 years and noted that lots of people build
their own up there. They usually had no loans on the materials and
built as they could - living in 5th wheelers or, when finished, their
That's the way I feel about gardening. My parents were outside all
weekend, every weekend (weather permitting). I paid no attention.
Like you, I sure wish I had.
| It has always concerned me when the young amoung us are not taugh basic
| skills such as how to change a tire, how to use a saw, how to...well
| you get the idea...there are basic skills that one needs to deal with
| the world we live in. Well this article shows what that lack of
| training, due to whatever reason, means as they get older.
| When I drive through a neighborhood, it is a rare garage that has
| anything like a workshop within it anymore....a reflection of the lack
| of interest or knowledge of the homeowner to work with their hands?
| Do your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, the generation who
| is succeeding us, have the basic skills that are needed in the world
The first thing that came to my mind was: You usually don't have to.
That brings us to my second point: If you don't have to, you'll never
learn how. If you have to a lot, you'll even get good at it.
When I took driver's ed back in the 80's (okay, that puts me squarely in
the middle of most of my peers nowadays, its seems) we had actual cutaway
car components in the classroom. I had grown up sort of out in the country,
so doing mechanical things weren't out of the ordinary for me, but my dad
never taught me much, or not at least actual instruction that I recall. I
think he was satisfied with me taking all kinds of stuff apart and figuring
out how it worked, and even getting lucky in getting it back together again.
If it worked afterwards, that was always a bonus. I think I just had the
knack for things like that, and eventually wound up working on electronics
in the service, where I had some problems with a used car I had. Took it to
a mechanic, since I had no tools or skills, and got my own spark plugs back
for ten bucks, in a car that only ran slightly better. That made me mad, so
I got a manual and started collecting tools. Eventually solved the problem
myself. That kinda told me that I could do whatever I set my mind to.
Nowadays I have a small fleet of cars for my family and little time, or
money, to maintain them all properly. If I would have had newer vehicles, I
likely wouldn't have had to work on them as much, so whether that would have
been better for me financially or not still remains to be seen. Folks used
to ask me if I liked working on cars. "Only when I don't have to." is my
Once my family and financial situation settled down, I got my piece of
the American dream and bought a home. I used to be a whole lot better at
this kind of thing, and could do a good job, but recently have started to
try and balance what I can do, what I could do, what I'll really do, and
it's really something I could do better. Having a major unfinished,
unscheduled major home repair (rotted kitchen subfloor. Overhauled the
cabinets since replacing them with equivalent quality was cost prohibitive,
laid down new sub floor and underlay, but have temporary vinyl tile on the
floor and counters now) I'm to the point where I have to come to grips with
my abilities versus my time, and the cost of the two. I think many people
are in that sort of situation, but for some, money is easier to throw at a
situation, and for some, money is the thing they have the least, so they
have to do it themselves, albeit poorly.
I used to have a job that didn't stimulate me much mentally, so there
was plenty of time to ponder things I wanted to do and so on. I have a very
cool new job that sends me home wiped out mentally, so I rarely feel
inclined to deal with that list of things to do. Haven't touched it in
weeks. Gotta figure out where I can find the round tuits now that I used to
have. I'm starting to have some sympathy with those folks, and I don't
really have a single thing to blame it on. Sort of how things have turned
We sort of went through this awhile back. Americans existed happily on
the east coast, crowded into cramped cities, when the US government started
offering free land west of the Mississippi. I'm sure each family that
headed out had a book or two that explained how to make a living in the
middle of nowhere with little more than what you could have carried with you
in a wagon. Likely even explained what to bring in the wagon, too.
Sort of got me thinking about a series of how-to books for stuff, but
most of that is on the web now, since that's the first place most folks go
for information, even if it's really generic and useless to the rest of us.
Perhaps what needs to be out there is a non-condescending tome about how to
find/acquire the core skills that most of us take for granted when we tackle
a new task, such as righty tighty, doing a visual, gathering information
first, and so on. That bit is missing from every book I've ever read on how
to do stuff, but how to approach such a subject is actually a whole lot
harder than it sounds.
You can learn a lot about someone by handing them a simple tool like a
ratcheting socket wrench, especially to assemble something. The
inexperienced try to tighten the still loose bolt holding the end of
the ratchet handle and of course have it always falling off the nut...
the experienced finger tighten, palm the ratchet mechanism, and only
shift down to the end of the handle for the last little bit. Of course
we haven't thought about that since we were 8 or so... which is why
it's so shocking to see how a newbie treats the tool!
On 6 Aug 2006 19:17:29 -0700, cs firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Its embarrassing how many folks have to be reminded:
Righty tighty, lefty loosey.
"Pax Americana is a philosophy. Hardly an empire.
Making sure other people play nice and dont kill each other (and us)
off in job lots is hardly empire building, particularly when you give
them self determination under "play nice" rules.
Think of it as having your older brother knock the shit out of you
for torturing the cat." Gunner
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