Friday, March 10, 2017

What's Elon done now?

What's Elon done now?  Via still-stuck-in-San-Diego friend and reader Simon M.: I can fix South Australia's power network in 100 days or it's free.  As Simon quipped: “You’ve got to love this guy!”

Triggered memory ... of my “plantsman” dad...

Triggered memory ... of my “plantsman” dad...  Some of my favorite memories from the many trips I took with my dad are of our conversations.  These conversations mostly happened in two settings: while driving (and we drove a lot, as some of our destinations were 1,500 miles from our home) and while resting in some beautiful spot on one of our hikes.

During one of those “while driving” conversations, while on the way to Santa Rosa, California, we talked about Luther Burbank.   My dad and I were traveling to Santa Rosa as a sort of pilgrimage for my dad, to Burbank's old estate (now a gardens and museum).  Burbank was one of my dad's botanical heroes, for lots of reasons.  He died when my dad was but a little boy, but his dad visited Burbank on his epic travels to California in the early 1900s.  My grandfather Earle Dilatush brought back stories and memories of that visit, and shared them with my dad.  When I was a small boy, my dad kept a set of books detailing Burbank's work by his desk.  All I can remember about those tomes is that they were thick (and heavy!), filled with photos and a few color plates, and all the text was completely beyond my comprehension.

So what triggered the memories that led to this post?  Reading this article, link forwarded by a friend.  My dad and I saw all of the plants referenced in that article on our visit that day, sometime in the mid-'90s.

Once again I'm reminded just how much I cherish those trips with my dad, and how thankful I am that Debbie and I found the money and time to make some good memories with our parents...

A whole band ... on a single guitar.

A whole band ... on a single guitar.  Cool!

Paradise ponders, dancing with jigs edition...

Paradise ponders, dancing with jigs edition...  Our Tesla Model X is still at the service center, but I did get some news on it yesterday.  The technicians there tracked the problem down to a corroded “hinge” that lets the spoiler move up and down.  It's not at all clear to me how a hinge would be used to move the spoiler up-and-down on its mounting posts, but that's what they told me.  There's a new hinge on order that should come in today.  The techs told me that some other Model Xs have been having the same issue, so engineering is tracking it and looking for a long-term solution.  It was refreshing to have such a frank and open discussion with a car manufacturer's representatives; that attitude is much appreciated by me.  We're hoping to be able to return the #%(*#($ Mercedes CLA 250 today and pick up our Model X.  We may have to take it back in at some later date for the long-term fix, but that's ok.  We knew we were getting a version 1.0 when we pre-ordered it. :)

I did manage to get a little time in on my stairs project yesterday, and I hope I'll get some more today.  I'm putting three dowels down the centerline of each 4x4 butt joint I'm making, and to get the holes precisely positioned in the opposing faces I needed a drill jig.  That's what I built yesterday, from some scrap white pine 1x6 and a 2x4.  The first photo shows the guide I rigged with clamps in order to route a groove in the 2x4 to insert the 1x6.  The second photo shows the result.  The third photo shows the 2x4s being glued to the 1x6, and the last photo the end result.  This morning I'll drill the three template holes in the 1x6, and then the jig is done.  I didn't really dance with it, though. :)

This exercise made me think of the day, many years ago, when it dawned on me that clamps were pretty much the center of any woodworker's universe.  When I thought of a wood shop, I, like most people, thought of tools like saws, planes, hammers, etc.  But now I think I could best tell you if someone was a woodworker by looking for the clamps in their shop.  :)  I own 28 clamps (I counted yesterday) of five distinct types, and I have 8 more arriving today (pipe clamps, for the sixth type).  This isn't nearly enough; I'm pretty sure I need at least twice as many, both in number and in type.  I also need a rack to store them all, as right now I just keep them in a messy pile.

Habits and conventions...

Habits and conventions...  This morning I had my usual tea and toast (Cache Crunch!) for breakfast.  To get the bread out, I had to untwist the “twist-em” closure on the loaf's bag – and for the ten-millionth time, someone (presumably named Debbie :) had twisted it on “backwards”.  I'd expected to twist it counter-clockwise to remove it, but instead that just wound it up some more.  With the twist-em closures, you can't really discern the direction of twist by inspection, you just have to try it to figure it out.  For me, it was disconcerting to discover that the closure was twisted that way – but I find it that way so often – roughly half the time – (including straight from the bakery) that it must be me that's weird.

So that got me to thinking about why I thought twisting clockwise to close the bag was the “right” way to do it.  I believe it must be derived from learning how to tighten and loosen bolts, screws, and pipes.  Except in the unusual case of “left-handed” threads, all of these everyday items tighten (screw in) when twisted clockwise, and loosen (screw out) when twisted counter-clockwise.  I've done so much work with such devices over the years that the directionality of them is now at the subconscious level.  When I do run into one with left-handed threads, it's disconcerting in precisely the same manner as that backwards twist-em.  But then, thinking about that, I remembered that I've known quite a few people for whom this directionality was not so clear.  Many of these people are women who have not (for reasons I'll let you speculate about) done much work with bolts, screws, and pipes.

Others, though, have life experiences more akin to mine.  Just to make one example: I have a neighbor who is older than I am, and has spent his entire working life around machinery.  While fixing an irrigation pipe last summer, he ran into trouble that he thought was caused by his arthritis interfering with his finger strength – he was unable to remove a 6" long nipple.  He called me over to help him out.  The pipe unscrewed easily, and when my neighbor saw me do it, he immediately started making fun of himself – because he'd been trying to tighten it!  Fifty years of field experience with machinery, and he still didn't have the directionality of threads down pat.  In fact, I discovered, he relied on a little jingle (“righty tighty, lefty loosy”) to jog his memory, but somehow he'd messed that up.  He told me that he's always had trouble remembering the direction to turn bolts, etc.  He's even marked his tools with arrows to help him remember.

Thinking about this apparent dichotomy (people who can or can't easily remember thread directions) got me to wondering if it might be related to dyslexia.  A little googling quickly eliminated that hypothesis: dyslexia is strictly related to words (as you can see from the word's roots!), and doesn't affect any other abilities so far as I can tell from the studies I scanned.  I learned thread directions so long ago that I can't recall at all whether it was difficult for me to learn.  Anything you've learned so well that it's now not even raised to a conscious level is, I suspect, like that.

Might it be related to one's spatial reasoning ability?  That's an area where the tests I've taken indicate I have a high ability, and it's also (feminists, avert your eyes) one where women score, on average, considerably below men.  Some men, obviously, score low as well.  I wonder how well this ability correlates with the ease of internalizing thread direction?  Or the sense of “proper” twist-em direction?  :)