(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘craft

“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance”*…

The noble but undervalued craft of maintenance could, Alex Vuocolo explains, help preserve modernity’s finest achievements, from public transit systems to power grids, and serve as a useful framework for addressing climate change and other pressing planetary constraints…

… If you start talking with engineers about maintenance, somebody always brings up Incan rope bridges. Maybe you’ve seen an illustration or a digital rendering in a Hollywood movie. They’re the color of hay and hang with a bit of slack over rivers and canyons in Peru’s rugged terrain. Made from ichu grass threaded into progressively denser and denser bundles, they were ritualistically maintained by ancient Peruvians. They lasted for centuries. Most are long gone now, though at least one has been preserved for posterity as an infrastructural artifact, just like the R32 at the New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn.

It’s hard to imagine a modern ritual that would be equal to the task of perpetually renewing steel bridges, concrete highways and cement buildings. It would require an entirely new industrial paradigm. One label for such a system is “circular economy,” which the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which funds research on the topic, defines as “an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design.”

The concept dates to the 1960s and the work of economist Kenneth E. Boulding, but most of us are more familiar with a related slogan that emerged from the environmental movement of the 1970s: reduce, reuse, recycle. Those have been the guiding principles for the green movement for much of the past half-century, informing everything from municipal recycling programs to efficiency standards for toilets to lifestyle movements calling for “zero-impact living.”

Maintain is notably missing from the triplet, perhaps because it’s difficult to reconcile with sustainability’s implicit emphasis on reduction and restraint. By contrast, maintenance is about keeping things — sometimes large, intensively built things like skyscrapers and subway cars that might be difficult to imagine in the biodegradable utopias of the most gung-ho environmentalists. Ultimately, reduction is prioritized. We must not hold onto things. We must let go like good Buddhists, as industrial civilization becomes merely a painful, transient phase in human history, passing out of us like bad karma.

There is tension in the question of whether to build objects more intensively, so that they last longer, or to recognize that some things cannot endure and thus should be designed that way. There’s no hope for a paper plate in the long run, for example. It’s designed to enter the waste stream as cheaply and easily as possible. Conversely, a toaster could last for decades if maintained properly, assuming the manufacturer hasn’t built obsolescence into it (as is often the case).

More complex objects and built environments, like a transit system or a housing development, compound questions over what should last and what cannot. How do we create systems that can address these questions on their own terms?

The work of maintenance is ultimately a way of parsing and knowing a thing and deciding, over and over, what it’s worth. “Maintenance should be seen as a noble craft,” said [Louis] Rossmann, [owner of a computer repair shop in New York City and a popular Youtuber] “It should be seen as something that teaches people not just how to repair, but how to think.”

Eminently worth reading in full: “The Disappearing Art Of Maintenance,” from @AlexVuocolo in @NoemaMag.

* Kurt Vonnegut

###

As we take care, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876, during the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia, and at the end of a three-day “Convention of Librarians,” 103 librarians (90 men and 13 women) signed a register as charter members of the American Library Association. The oldest library association in the world, It has grown into the largest.

source

“The Big Rock Candy Mountain”*…

Rock candy (or sugar candy or rock sugar or crystal sugar) is a type of sweet composed of relatively large sugar crystals, formed by allowing a supersaturated solution of sugar and water to crystallize onto a surface suitable for crystal nucleation (e.g.,a string, a stick, or plain granulated sugar). As Anna and Kelly Pendergrast explain, they have a pattern embedded through the entire length, using techniques perfected by master candy craftspeople over generations…

A 1957 film shows the making of rock candy (often better known by its place of origin, for instance, Blackpool rock or Brighton rock..

A more recent demonstration shows the technique has remained practically unchanged for 75 years…

Crafting a confection: How Rock Candy is Made, from @APndrgrst and @k_pendergrast in The Prepared (@the_prepared).

Harry McClintock

###

As we let it melt in our mouths, we might note that this is National Caramel Custard Day. A caramel custard is an egg custard, lightly topped with caramel, on a caramel base; a variation, Creme Brulee, is a distant cousin of rock candy, in that the caramel is not at the bottom, but only the top of the custard, and is “carmelized” (hardened) with a red-hot salamander (a cast-iron disk with a long wooden handle) or with a butane torch.

Caramel Custard

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 3, 2022 at 1:00 am

“How deluded we sometimes are by the clear notions we get out of books. They make us think that we really understand things of which we have no practical knowledge at all.”*…

“The Invention of Copper Engraving”; engraving by Jan Collaert after Stradanus, circa 1600

Anthony Grafton on Pamela H. Smith‘s new book, From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World, and the challenges of understanding the origins of the practical arts, crafts, and sciences…

… The knowledge that goes into building a brick wall that is truly vertical or hanging a door that doesn’t stick, printing a book that doesn’t smudge or casting a bell that won’t split, is hard to trace to its origins. Historians of science specialize in theories and methods that they can tie to people and dates: for example, astronomy based on the heliocentric theory and human anatomy based on human dissection. Both of these, as it happens, were the subjects of long, technical books—by Copernicus and Vesalius, respectively—that appeared in 1543.

The knowledge that underpins our world of things, by contrast, has been discovered over centuries, through trial and error, two steps forward and one step back. It has been produced and improved by collaboration: the work of talented, largely anonymous groups, generation after generation, rather than identifiable individuals. And it is less verbal than embodied. Most of the experiments involved in forming a craft and the practices used to teach and further develop it go unrecorded, as do those who carried them out. French bakers often start their careers nowadays with formal training. But they master their craft at work, learning from those with experience and skills, hands in the dough and senses focused on what happens to it in the oven.

Teaching astronomy or anatomy happens in a lecture hall or anatomy theater—a place where some people pronounce and others take notes (or zone out). Teaching in the world of things goes on in places where people work. Teaching in the university is usually abstract and verbal. Teaching in the world of things is often physical: the teacher urges pupils to apply all of their senses and employs gestures as well as words to make clear how one wields a tool or decides if something has finished cooking.

As a history professor I have told stories and argued about interpretations before hundreds of students in lecture halls and seminar rooms. Long ago, as a theater technician, I taught apprentices—face-to-face and with our hands on tools and materials—how to swing a hammer or glue the cloth for scenery to a wooden frame. When teaching history I present an ever-changing body of material that I have read and thought and argued about with colleagues over the decades. When teaching theater crafts I transmitted physical skills that I had learned from others in shops and about which I had not read a word. No notes preserve those lessons. How can we hope to discover how a medieval blacksmith learned to forge tools or a Renaissance tailor learned to cut brocade?…

The knowledge that underpins our world of things has been discovered over centuries, produced as the result of collaboration, and generally unrecorded. How does a historian overcome these obstacles? “How to Cast a Metal Lizard,” @scaliger on @ps2270 in @nybooks.

Similarly, see “How a Bedouin Tracker Sees the Desert.” And for how a successful manager (and artist) incorporates “the art of craft” into his life, see “Leading with Slow Craft,” from @natenatenate.

* Thomas Merton

###

As we noodle on knowledge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that Henry Hale Bliss, a 69-year-old New York City real estate dealer, was alighting from a south bound 8th Avenue trolley car when an electric-powered taxicab (Automobile No. 43) struck him. Bliss hit the pavement, crushing his head and chest. He was taken by ambulance to Roosevelt Hospital; but upon arrival the house surgeon, Dr. Marny, said his injuries were too severe to survive; Bliss died the next morning… becoming the first recorded instance of a person being killed in a motor vehicle collision in the U. S.

Bliss in 1873 [source]

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 13, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Cause I wuv you!”*…

From Rusty Blazenhoff‘s Sad and Useless (“the most depressive humor site on the internet”), a look at chelonian couture…

This marvelous fashion collection has been created by the leading American tortoise fashion designer Katie Bradley. Unfortunately it looks like her Etsy store is taking a break, but you can still purchase patterns to create your very own crocheting masterpieces…

More at “Winter 2022 Tortoise Fashion Collection by Katie Bradley,” from @Blazenhoff

See also : “Winter 2022 Chicken Fashion” (“Are you looking for a fashionable and stylish outfit for your pet chicken? Of course you are….”)

Annamari Vänskä

###

As we keep it stylish, we might note that today is Cinco de Marcho. Unlike it’s better known counterpart, Cinco de Mayo (which commemorates the anniversary of Mexico’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862), the 5th of March marks the beginning of a 12-day drinking regimen for anyone who wishes to “train one’s liver for the closing ceremonies on St. Patrick’s Day.”

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 5, 2022 at 1:00 am

“He’s a pinball wizard”*…

Mark Frauenfelder talks with Tanner Petch, the creator of play-able pieces of art: an arcade full of handmade pinball machines…

Sinkhole is a backwards game that borrows from the aesthetic of early pinball, particularly “wood rail” games from pre-1960s. The fact that it tilts away from you changes your experience a lot more than you’d expect and came from trying to question what were some of the very core aspects of pinball that could be tinkered with. In addition to the wooden components, the art style, playfield design, and overall theme were inspired by the esoteric nature of early games (at least compared to what we expect today)…

Prometheus was the first game I made and is based on the part of the myth where an eagle eats Prometheus’ liver every day after it regenerates. In the game, the player is the eagle, and the only objective is to hit four drop targets which represent four bites of the liver. You do this as many times as you want to, or until you lose. Rather than an individual score, the display shows the cumulative number of livers eaten as long as the machine has existed…

More at: “Check out Tanner Petch’s weird homebrew pinball machines@tpetch via @Frauenfelder in @BoingBoing

* The Who, “Pinball Wizard,” Tommy

###

As we finesse the flippers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Hewlett-Packard introduced the first handheld scientific calculator, the HP-35, a calculator with trigonometric and exponential functions. The model name was a reflection of the fact that the unit had 35 keys.

It became known as “the electronic slide rule”– a device that it (and its successors, from both HP and TI) effectively replaced.

source

%d bloggers like this: