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Archive for June 26th, 2011

My father and stepmom flew out this last Thursday.  It’s the first time he’s been to Michigan.

Today we went to an estate sale (I got books and a cane, more on that later) and then to our favorite coffee shop to visit with Spaced Diode and his wife and son.  I was finally able to prove to my dad, as I put it to him:  “See Dad, I do have friends!  Gosh darn it, people like me!”

He said “Yep.  At least one.”

In my family dry sarcastic humor is an art form.

Then we came home and I continued to watch over the ribs I had put in the smoker this morning around 10AM.  We let them go until 6pm and I pulled them and the smoked chicken legs out and we all stuffed ourselves silly on ribs, legs, macaroni salad, and awesome bread from Zingerman’s deli (yes, the world-famous Zingerman’s that we visited on Friday).

Tonight I introduced my dad to the joys of lightning bugs.  Picture an 80 year old man with his forty-something son and eight and five year old grandkids, all out catching fireflies in the fading daylight.  Gosh it was fun.   Spent a bunch of time doing long-exposure photographs to cat lightning bug streaks.  I’ve also got roughly 30-40 mosquito bites so if West Hemorrhagic Listeria Nile Pox is a real phenomenon then we’re going to find out.

Tomorrow, we go to the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village.  We’ll visit the Wright Brother’s shop and Edison’s laboratory among other places.

The cane… no, I don’t need it to walk but after a while if I’m walking or standing it is nice to lean on it, straight-arm it, and lean my head on my shoulder to take a load off of my neck.  Yes, I know it makes me look crippled, but in a sense I am when the neck goes “tits up” on me.  It was funny but I saw it and did that w/o thinking and suddenly realized that it actually helped to do it so I willingly threw four bucks down on the table for it.

Plus now I can whack people with it.

The books… Statistical Methods in Engineering, Mechanisms, Electromagnetic Theory for Students, Marco Polo, The Heart of Darkness, Black Beauty, etc.   All with that musty old book smell, all hardcover, all of them with the woodcut graphics and illustrations, and all of them for $1 apiece.  The nice thing about the Mechanisms and EM Theory books was that when they were written, authors didn’t write it just to publish a book, they made the book to teach people who wanted to learn.  They didn’t set out under the premise that people knew Thing X and Principle Y just so they could get to Cool New Thing Z… they taught you Thing X, Principle Y, and gave you enough bedrock information so you could understand Cool New Thing Z on your own.   There is a vast difference between the mindset of stuff published before the mid-1950’s and stuff published now.   I draw the analogy that science and engineering “back then” is more like factual news reporting (minimum of bullshit) and science and engineering now is more like watching CNN/Time/Warner “news” – which is meant to puff itself up and provide puff-pastries rather than a basic diet.

Then  it was a relationship between teacher and student with the goal that the student should attain mastery alongside the teacher and hopefully surpass the teacher.  Now it is a relationship that seeks to dress the information up so it looks interesting and if a student learns the information it is really a secondary goal.   Before you had to already have the interest and then work to understand the principles before you could see the beauty, and now it is a matter of trying to present something that is visually interesting and maybe the student will want to work harder.

It has the effect of pulling more students in but also students who love the idea of where they think they want to go rather than students who want to go there for it’s own sake.  Engineering and science requires a burning need to understand, in my not-so-humble opinion.

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