Rethinking Heroes

I may have previously identified the four heroes in my life in this blog. The first was Jackie Stewart, race car driver. The second was Niel Armstrong. The third was Elon Musk, and lastly Donald Trump.

As a child us little boys would watch the F1 races on ABC’s Wild World of Sports. It was a thing back then. For whatever reason I picked Jackie Stewart as my favorite driver. My frinds picked other drivers. It gave us something to talk about. Many of my friends heroes died. Racing was very dangerous back then. Amazingly Jackie Stewart is still going strong. I saw him on TV a couple of days ago giving commentary on the current crop of F1 drivers. Jackie is a true hero, a very aspirational figure.

Neil Armstrong is a hero for the ages. The first person to step on the moon. I realize that Niel Armstrong was just a single person in a massive effort. It was not his plan, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Yet Niel was truly talented, and calm under pressure. Very few people would have his capabilities. He would say he was just doing his job, and in a way he was. After he retired from NASA he became rather reclusive. In a way I do not blame him. Really, how much can you really say about being the first to make a footprint, even if it was on the moon. Still, he could have been a great pulpit for science. Do heroes really need to be visible.

Next up is Donald Trump. I was aware of his early days in New York. I really did not pay attention to him, yet I was impressed by his collection of golf courses. Not that I ever came close to playing on one. There is one reason he became my hero. Sometimes my friends would complain about the government, I would reply “You have a billion bucks?” They would say no or something and I would reply “Unless you got a billion bucks or so there is nothing you can do about it. So forget about it.” Yup in my view the government was a corrupt system unworthy of discussion. Then came Donald Trump with a billion or two. He was going to fix the system. Well unfortunately he did not. The system fixed him. I don’t blame him for trying, then very unfortunately he became just another politician. I also learned how absolutely corrupt and big the system is. This entire blog is a chronicling of the affair. Sometimes heroes fail.

I saved the most enigmatic hero for last. Elon Musk. I so wanted to buy the first Tesla Roadster. That car made my hart beat faster. I wanted to buy his stock, but never did. My bad. Here was a man that made his own car company, and named the company after a true inventer and not that charlatan Edison. Yes I know Elon was not technically a founder of the company, he was certainly a funder that made the company successful. Not only was Elon a master that made Tesla a wildly successful global car company, he wants to retire on Mars! Elon has his own space company. Even better his space company provides me with internet so I can write in this blog.

I find it fascinating that we have a bunch of billionaires with their own space companies. Talk about competition. Now we have individuals doing what the government used to do. I have to wonder who will be the Jackie Stewart of the crowed. Bozos, Branson, Musk and a few smaller outfits are transforming space into a commercial enterprise. The future is yet to be written.

This is probably a good place to note that all my heros are male. I am not really sure why that is. There are not a lot of women race car drivers or astronauts. They are probably smarter for not being one of those. I did respect Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi who were politicians back when Iwas young. Not that I paid a lot of attention to politicians back then. I think I respect them more than I did our politicians at the time. Don’t ask me about our current crop, I have no respect for them.

Which brings me back to Elon Musk. He is taking on our current corrupt system. To my amazement he is throwing tens of billions of dollars at the problem. He is picking up the ball that was dropped after the tackling of Donald Trump. I have no idea if he can succeed. Treachery is the normal in that game. I really have no idea if fixing the system is an attainable goal. Then when it comes right down to it, Elon is also a guy. In this day being a guy is a negative. Where are the women? Marry Barra is head of GM, yet she seems so corporate. Elon is not corporate in the traditional sense. Maybe he is the new corporate, and is that a good thing? We will see. Anyway Elon is transformative, as all heros are.

Heroes can also the little people. We were taught Tomas Edison was the famous inventor, yet it was Nicholas Tesla that made electrification work. We were taught the Wright brothers invented the airplane, yet it was Glenn Curtis that made it fly. Henry Ford popularized the assembly line. Yet it is the factory workers that made the cars. Heroes are really the secondary people that get things done, and make the world a better place.

We need heroes, whoever they may be.


The Pollen Count

A number of my my friends from the left commented on the amount of pollen this year. I myself witnessed a haze in the sky that was reminiscent of a hot humid day. A friend with a plane mentioned that he had never seen so much pollen in the sky.

I tried looking up pollen records, and the results were somewhat sketchy. Though anecdotally pollen counts are going up. A database of pollen counts was not easily findable on the web. typically keep my mouth shut when it comes to discussing politics and such. The programed reaction to the increase in pollen count is to blame global warming.

When during dinner with friends the mention of pollen count came up, I mentioned that maybe the extra Co2 was making the trees happy. Nobody disagreed.

More Co2 makes for happy trees.

A Parents Gift

when I was growing we were taught to be obedient. We were to do what our parents wanted us to do. We did our chores, mowed the lawn pulled the weeds. Some of us were better at it than others. If we did well we were rewarded with an allowance.

We might be expected to keep the fire going in the hearth. To make our beds, cut and split firewood. If we had cows I am sure we would have been expected to milk them. Different families had different expectations. Children might have been expected to keep the family business. Many families expected the children to keep care of their parents in their old age. Families expect their children to keep their political values intact, or more precisely, to fight their wars for them.

At least that was the way I was brought up. Of course children will rebel. They may not always agree with their family values. Yet, sometimes, the apple does not fall far from the tree. More often though the apples are mechanically harvested with great big tree shakers. Then the apples are then turned to applesauce. Draw your own metaphor.

Rebellious parents spaun rebellious youth, compliant parents spaun compliant youth, curious parents spaun curious youth. Boring parents, Boring youth. Sure there are plenty of anomalies, that is what keeps life interesting. Still, most parents put a lot of effort into raising their children.

There are those that believe children should be subservient to their parents. This conversation not exactly a political post, it was not motivated by political conversation. I was motivated by a small epiphany on the meaning of parenting. We do not have to parent of the betterment of ourselves, we can parent for the betterment of others.

Not everyone gets that. In fact that may be an aspirational thought. I will refrain from talking about our politicians children. There are people that would be happy to be judged by their children. For their children are their gift to the world.

The Virus

Except for the doctor’s office nobody is wearing masks anymore. Sure people are getting sick. Some of them even have some lingering effects. I know people that have had Covid several times. People are regularly testing themselves. If they get sick they quarantine themselves. A frinds boss tested positive and then went to work. All his employees were mad at him. People are concerned that somebody old might catch it.

Although my wife and I have not had Covid, seems most people we know have had it. As I had said a while ago, everybody is going to get it. What I find surprising is there is no remedy. You get it and suffer. Unlike the cold and flue there is no over the counter medication. No wives tales like warm milk and honey to make us feel better. Not to say there are no remedies out there, it is just political suicide to say there is. Alleging a cure is so dangerous that even the charlatans are staying away.

Looking about I think most people believe it is time to get back to normal. I was out shopping for a couple of hours and saw nobody with a mask. That is until I pulled up to a traffic light. I glanced at the car next to me and had a chill. Normally I do not mind when people wear a mask. Sometimes I barely notice. It is their right to wear a mask. I do not like to tell people what to do. I had seen people solo in a car before wearing a mask, and I get a chuckle out of it. I have not seen much of that recently though.

In the car next to me the driver, the sole occupant was wearing a mask. It was not a standard surgical mask. It was a custom form fitting mask. A few months ago we were told we could not wear form fitting masks. I had had a collection of masks that were different colors, I would choose a color depending on my outfit. If I had to wear a mask I was going to be stylish about it. I was a bit disappointed to have conformity forced upon me. So I noticed when someone was non-conforming to the surgical mask rule with a large dark beige form fitting mask.

What were they thinking, a virus spore was going to somehow waft out of my car and enter through their ventilation system and get them? The odds of such a thing happening were really rather slim. So why would someone do such a thing?

I have been told the answer by those that do. They think we are all viruses. We are no longer people, we are all just a virus out to get them. That may be a bit harsh, yet anyone that does not cover up is considered an inconsiderate virus. That may be a psychotic view, but it is not what gave me the chill.

As I pulled up and glanced, all that went through my mind as I realized I was now sitting next to Hannibal Lecter. The thought chilled me to the bone.

Shopping In The Big Apple

I don’t typically throw my coworkers under the bus, in manufacturing it is rairly done. We typically depend on each other. Teamwork is like that. Funny thing about this new place, tossing a colleague under seems like a regular sport. So today will join in and toss a couple of my colleagues under the proverbial buss. l think if you check my writing I have never directly identified bad behavior. Some people just cannot help themselves they just have to make things political. So here is my reply. Not long ago, in front of students, two of my coworkers were dishing on Republicans and their policies. I am typically fairly tolerant of such speech, there is much I do not know, so I listen. I do my best to not trigger such speech also. Although the conversation was general I think it may have been directed at one of the students.

After reciting a litany of the failings of Republicans and their policies, they, my coworkers, focused on W Bush. This surprised me a bit, as the students may have not been born at that time. It could have been directed at me but I really don’t think so as typically don’t respond to political bashing. After deriding the intellectual capabilities of W Bush they focused on his statements after 9/11. Apparently in his speech Bush said something like “Let’s get back to normalcy, let’s shop in NYC”. My coworkers thought that was the dumbest thing ever. They loudly agreed and made sure everyone in the room could hear them.

I do not remember those particular words in history, I remember something like a war on terror being talked about. It is very easy to pick apart and twist words. If one is intending to find faults they will find faults. That is what people like my coworkers do. They think it makes for better people.

I had recently returned from New York City. It had been a while since I had previously visited. I actually had been in the world trade center on one of my last visits.. When I was young I spent lots of time there. My wife and I had been invited to a very nice wedding. We also did some shopping.

We went to the world trade center memorial. Tears pored from my eyes. My best friend had taken care of the service dogs after 9-11. He died of brain cancer. This blog is dedicated to him. I had a jacket that I bought with him for my wedding. My wife and I thought it might be nice to buy a new jacket in NYC in his memory.

There was a suit shop in the new world trade center. The building was made of shiny marble and glass. There was an absolutely massive staircase in the building. It was a very fancy building. We walked into the suit shop. I was a bit surprised that we were the only ones in the shop. The store was absolutely magnificent. There was a line of suits that looked like they were every shade of the rainbow. A salesperson came around the corner. He was prettier than a TV commercial. I can’t imagine the amount of time spent on his hair. He looked dejected when he saw an old couple.

My wife said we were looking for a jacket. His mood improved when I made a dramatic swoop with my hand and said that it needed to go with a purple shirt. He quickly brought out a cotton Miami Vice style jacket, that did not fit. It was quickly apparent that nothing in the store fit a fat old guy. It is probably just as well. Nothing there was under 500 dollars.

We did buy a bunch of stuff, some of it hand made by the street artists. We never did find a jacket, though we looked. We will never forget though. It was all part of the NY experience.

All of these thoughts were going through my head when my colleagues were deriding Bush for asking people to shop in NYC. I replied, “Isn’t that what New York all about?”

Union people sure can be negative.

A Tale Of Two Gays

At one of the many schools I attended there were two gay teachers. Not that I really knew what gay was. Actually I did not know what anything was. That is a different story though. Anyway I was told two of the professors were gay. One of them had “Come out” and that was very exciting to people. He could draw a crowd whenever he spoke. The other was still in the closet as they say.

The out professor taught cinematography. He specialized in cinema verity about himself being gay. People loved it. What it is like to live in a cabin and be gay. I will admit to being somewhat perplexed about what being gay was all about. I watched the movie and all I could figure was he lived with another guy.

I will say years later I saw him on national TV. He had filmed himself dying of aids. It was quite sad. At that point in my life I had learned a bit more about what being gay actually ment.

The other gay professor never mentioned he was gay. He did talk about the children’s books he wrote. I was enthralled. I took all of his courses I could. When we went to his house he introduced us to his housemate, who was a guy. I so wished he was my grandmother or something. I was so happy around him. I had my first cup of coffee in his new home. He showed me all of his treasures in his studio. I was quite lucky to have known him.

For many years I wanted him to design a paint job for my plane, of course I did not have a plane, I needed to build one. Dreams unreleased. He died recently. My wife’s company took care of him. I wished I had known. I would have liked to say goodbye.

A Bucket Of Sand

What is in the future? That is a hard question to answer. So we try and prepare our children the best we can. I believe that manufacturing makes for better lives. So that is what I teach. Almost everything we touch is manufactured. Almost everything we do we can do because of manufacturing.

Sometimes things that are manufactured do not make society better. I would hope that we try and make things that make everyone’s life better. Still that is a judgment call. I try hard not to judge.

So how do I teach manufacturing? It is a digital world. Learn to speak the language of digital fabrication. Dimensioning, the relationship of objects, collaboration. Those are what are important to me. I also try and listen, as I do not know it all. Practically, people that want to manufacture need to know how to use modern machinery. They operate digitally. We have digital CNC machines they are underutilized.

One of the things I enjoy telling the students is “When I was your age they told me, Don’t trust anyone over 40”. I then take a deep breath, exhale then say “Remember that” I then proceed to say that I will do anything I can to help them. The future is yours not mine. I think there is a very good reason to tell them that. We old people are stuck in our ways. We want to teach things like draft in sand casting. Or what angle to hand grind tool steel to use on a lathe. We might as well be making pottery. The students want to use new equipment to make new things.

The good news is we do have a diamond lathe. It gets lots of use and the students love it. The old people are unhappy because they want a mature course. They complain about the new methodology and go back to their old methods. Unfortunately the students become angry with the old methods.

I am encouraged though, last week I received a new vision system. I had a lot of fun with it, I am looking forward to showing the students how it works. I have a list of new equipment I would like to see. Also a list of projects. Yet I am willing to listen. A student just mentioned they want to do 4D printing. We will do that.

My lab is in transition, to where I do not know. Some people want to restore the antique machinery. They think it is important. I say they are living in the past. They care about sand casting. I am into the vision system. Before they went home the last thing they bought was a bucket of sand. We have to much old stuff as it is. I am trying to clean up and get rid of old stuff. I wonder to myself what I am supposed to do with a clean shiny new bucket of sand?

If I had my way I would build an airplane. Anyone want a shiny new butt can?