Wednesday, July 18, 2012

dog days...

These are the dog days of summer, relentless heat that started weeks ago, and I was grateful to have been in Maine with cooler temperatures during part of June. A person can begin to feel a bit wrung out. Tomatoes in planters on the deck have turned out to be a poor investment. Between a massive, juicy green tomato horn worm devouring every leaf on one plant (I plucked him loose and hurled him into the woods), and the lack of adequate sun in the first place for the others, my second year of container gardening has been no better than the first. In gardening, I am a slow learner and it appears I need to find a better place to farm or give up.

In the shop, things are always just a bit better. I'm preparing stock for my class on making small cabinets and will offer my students a choice of walnut, cherry or white oak. It is so satisfying taking raw lumber and processing it into well surfaced parts.

I was asked for a quote about woodworking education to be used on the North Bennet St. School website, and so what I offered (subject to editing) is as follows:
"Woodworking in schools provides a cutting edge for the engagement of the mind in learning. Students who may be disinterested in academic learning are more deeply engaged in schooling when they get the opportunity to find success working with their hands.

On the other hand, students who are already successful in formal education acquire qualities of character in wood shop that make them better citizens, and more appreciative of the contributions made by others.

Regardless of a student's educational objectives, whether to enter college, or trade school, those things that are learned hands-on are learned more deeply and to greatest lasting effect."
While here in the northern hemisphere, the dog days of relentless heat are barking, and real dogs are panting heavily in what ever shade they can find, in the southern hemisphere, second semester of school has commenced. Richard Bazeley in Australia sent photos of his high school students at work on cabinetry, which involved three sessions working and learning at a local cabinet making shop. The cabinet maker was paid for his time and materials, thus bringing him into the educational process, but also engaging students in a real life outside-the-school learning opportunity. Richard said of the experience,
"This is a very efficient industry and so the students got to hear about and see the amount of the calculations and precision that is required to achieve a quality outcome. We worked to the millimetre and at times to the half millimetre.
I learnt a lot from the experience and hope to build more of this into what I teach in the future."
Next his students will begin making small cabinets of their own design, and having had a taste of real world experience will help them to know the importance of close tolerances and lead to greater success.

While we remember that ALL students benefit from hands-on learning like that a wood shop can provide, we must not forget the economic benefits of wood shop in preparing students for actual employment in the careful use of their minds, eyes and hands. Paul Ruhlman at Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge notes that a number of his woodworking students have become orthopedic surgeons... a trade even the most successful and dubious parent could be proud of.

I had this interesting experience retrieving data from a recalcitrant hard drive. I could no longer get my computer to recognize a 160 gig. external hard drive upon which all my photos were stored, so learned from my internet research that literally freezing (below zero) a freezing hard drive might allow its data to be successfully retrieved. I put the hard drive sealed in a zip lock bag in  the freezer for  5 hours and then connected it wrapped in bubble wrap and sealed in zip lock for insulation while it downloaded to another external drive. Who would have thought such a thing might work? There is no reasonable explanation, but it does work. While it took over an hour I've successfully transferred my files to a new storage device. Yippee. If you have a challenging hard drive, freezing it may be the  first thing  you will want to try.

Make, fix and create...

3 comments:

Patrick Gracewood said...

Hey, Doug, Though I understand your frustration with the giant tomato worm eating every leaf, have you ever farmed the worm? It's easy and some compensation to see the beautiful crysalysis (spelling) and moth that result. Every shape of the moth can be seen in the cocoon. Just put a couple of cups ofdirt in a coffee can or jar, ventilate the lid, and feed tomato leaves. Soon, especially if the worm is already big, it will dig underground and transform. wait a couple of weeks ? and unearth the beautiful cry...that word again. Good project for kids large or small.

Patrick Gracewood said...

Hey, Doug, Though I understand your frustration with the giant tomato worm eating every leaf, have you ever farmed the worm? It's easy and some compensation to see the beautiful crysalysis (spelling) and moth that result. Every shape of the moth can be seen in the cocoon. Just put a couple of cups ofdirt in a coffee can or jar, ventilate the lid, and feed tomato leaves. Soon, especially if the worm is already big, it will dig underground and transform. wait a couple of weeks ? and unearth the beautiful cry...that word again. Good project for kids large or small.

Doug Stowe said...

Patrick,
When your realize that the body of this big green thing is made of the leaves of your wonderful tomato plants which will no longer survive, you tend not to have the best of feelings toward the tomato horn worm, regardless of its being such a miraculous life form.