TNT Newsletter for October 4, 2006
Finding your soul in shop class, a "Holey" Grail, tying your shoes right, kitchen sink explosions, tea-time, and putting some dash in grammar.
Michel Gondry, Gael Garcia Bernal, art, witty dialogue, fun music, and of course, plenty of heart.
This week I thought I'd send out a reminder of the good things in life. MAKE publisher and editor Dale Dougherty waxes poetic as he reviews an essay on the importance of vanishing shop classes, and MAKE webmaster Terrie Miller finds a way to bring civilization to the outdoors. Kaden Harris, of Eccentric Genius fame, talks about a surprise hit, and Andrea Dunlap discovers that scientists themselves are curious about the proper way to tie your shoe. Isn't life grand?
If there are any tools, books, articles, tips, gadgets, or anything else that cheers you up just to know it exists (particularly when your garage is clean and your tools are polished and all's right with the world), drop me a line at email@example.com.
I'm also realizing that Halloween is fast approaching, a "maker" holiday if there ever was one! Have a great project, hack, tip, costume idea, favorite material, or tool related to Halloween? Email me or senior editor Phillip Torrone (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we might just feature it on makezine.com.
Staff Editor, Make Magazine
Reviewed by Dale Dougherty
In his essay, "Shop Class as Soulcraft," Matthew B. Crawford writes in praise of manual labor, lamenting the disappearance of the shop class (and shop teachers) as our culture focuses on developing knowledge workers who supposedly use their heads, not their hands. He writes: " At the same time, an engineering culture has developed in recent years in which the object is to hide the works, rendering the artifacts we use unintelligible to direct inspection."
He wonders if a decline in the use of tools has made us "more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them." Crawford adds: So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world." At MAKE, we couldn't agree more.
Crawford, who left a job in a "think-tank" to become a bike mechnanic, traces the history of shop class in America back to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, which was meant to meet both vocational and general education requirements. Even from the outset, it seemed designed to create a path from school to the assembly line for the lower class, creating an artificial divide between "white collar" and "blue collar" that separated thinking from doing, which is just wrong.
"First, it assumes that all blue collar work is as mindless as assembly line work, and second, that white collar work is still recognizably mental in character. Yet there is evidence to suggest that the new frontier of capitalism lies in doing to office work what was previously done to factory work: draining it of its cognitive elements. Paradoxically, educators who would steer students toward cognitively rich work options might do this best by rehabilitating the manual trades, based on a firmer grasp of what such work is really like. And would this not be in keeping with their democratic mission? Let them publicly honor those who gain real craft knowledge, the sort we all depend on every day."
"Shop Class as Soulcraft" appears in the summer 2006 issue of the magazine The New Atlantis.
Reviewed by kaden
This is the ... er ... holey grail. Seriously.
If you drill holes in stuff, you know the sublime joy of a fresh, unsullied drill bit boring effortlessly through your material of choice. You know the agony of a dull bit laboriously burning, tearing, and chipping away at the same material.
You also know the frustration of painstaking hours spent with needle files attempting to bring your favourite 3/32" titanium oxide bit back to life, only to find that your efforts have resulted in the tool now drilling oval holes 4.7 degrees off vertical. In chalk only.
I approached the Drill Doctor with skepticism; it was expensive, primarily plastic, and marketed with hooeylicious enthusiasm.
Cynical? Me? Hell yeah.
In a moment of weakness, flush with the cash of a healthy book advance cheque, I made a leap of faith and bought a mid-range model. And became an instant true believer.
It does wot it sez on the packet. Quickly, efficiently, and with minimum effort. Came with a tres fromage instructional DVD too.
I now know the joy of every hole, in every diameter being drilled with a fresh-outa-the-box-sharp drill bit.
Reviewed by Andrea Dunlap
I was toodling around on the internet and found this article about math and shoelaces. With sentences like, Even if God wears shoes with 100 eyelets, these proofs will predict the shortest and strongest lacings," how can you resist? And doesnt it feel good to know that all these years youve been tying your shoelaces with scientific strength? (The two on the left are the strongest; the one on the right is most efficient. See the article for more insights.)
Reviewed by Arwen O'Reilly Griffith
OK, this is fun: say your sink is clogged. It just won't drain right, and you're constantly having to stop what your doing to let the water level sink enough to wash the dishes.
Now, you could pull out the Drano, but you could also make a tasty baking soda and vinegar cocktail. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, and then 1/2-1 cup of ordinary white vinegar. The two materials make a chemical reaction that fizzes and pops all the way down the pipes. Let it sit for a few minutes and pour several cups of boiling water down to clear the drain. It's fun and it actually works.
If your drain is really in a bad way, you might need the Drano (or, even better, Kleer Drain), but this is perfect for minor blockages or general maintenance, and good for the environment, too!
Reviewed by Terrie Schweitzer
This small, rugged stainless steel thermos is perfect for making a cup of coffee or tea to enjoy later in the day. The screw-top lid makes a tight seal, so you can throw it into your backpack without worrying about spills. Remove the lid, and you'll have a regular splash-proof travel mug that fits neatly into your car's cup holder (and it feels nice in your hands, too). There's even an included tea steeping basket.
The instructions warn to not overfill the thermos (there's a fill line on the inside) -- if you do, it may leak, but I've never had a leaking problem when I don't overfill.
I use this while birding or hawk watching on cold days, and having a hot cup of tea is a real treat. To keep your beverage especially hot, preheat the thermous by filling it with boiling water for a few minutes before filling it with your drink.
In a world of giant-sized drinks, the 11-ounce capacity may not seem like much, but I've found that it's perfect for me.
Reviewed by Arwen O'Reilly Griffith
Hyphenating compound words is a very tricky subject, and I thought it was time to tackle it. In fact, Wikipedia claims that "a definitive collection of hyphen rules does not exist," so we must muddle along as best we can.
Basically, the story is this: Hyphenating words is meant to clear up misunderstanding or ambiguity. When there are two or more words that express a single concept when combined, they should be linked by a hyphen. These are called "compound modifiers" because the first word(s) modify the second (or third, etc.) word.
The general rule requires hyphenating when a compound modifier appears before a noun. Examples: "well-sharpened saw," "ten-pound weights," "light-green toolbox." As you can see, without the hyphen, you might think that there were ten weights that weighed a pound each instead of a group of weights weighing ten pounds each, or that the green toolbox was not heavy, instead of being pale green. A hint from The Tongue Untied: if you can put "and" between the modifiers and it makes sense, you probably do not need a hyphen.
Just to make it even more complicated, please note: never hyphenate a compound word if it is an adverb ending in -ly. I don't know why this is, and couldn't find a concrete explanation for the life of me, but it must be so because Keith Hammond, MAKE's almost-infallible copy editor (note that clever use of a hyphenated compound word? Practically performative, this tip is!), says that it is. Also because I've seen it mentioned on many grammatical websites, sans explanation. (Whew! I think I came very nearly close to breaking a number of rules in that last sentence.)
Anyway, if you would like to know more, English Plus has a nice, wordy description about the history of hyphenation. Betcha didn't know such a topic existed, huh?