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Archive for February, 2014

Perhaps the reason I don’t have a very big following for my blog is that I mostly write for my own posterity and the comfort of getting my burning thoughts down in “black and white”, or whatever other colors I choose. I thought it was humorous and somewhat gratifying the other day when a student said to me about midway through a monologue I was giving in class, “Mr. [Leon], I could listen to you rant all day!” “That’s and interesting comment,” said I, “why do you feel that way?” “You are not afraid to be honest about what you think and always do it without being profane. There is alot of truth in what you say” Wow, so perhaps others are not so honest or insightful and are profane?

So, you might well guess that we are preparing for a rant, though this one is quite mild in delivery compared to the sarcastic and cutting version the student heard about the real deficiencies of public education (Perhaps that one will serve for another day. Oh, no, not another prescriptive education rant!). No, this one is about a significant blind spot that is preventing science education and political action from moving forward and it is not being caused by the uninformed. If after all of that you are still up for it, click on  Stop Writing Us Off    I look forward to some rousing comments.

 

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I’ll try to refrain from too much well worn cultural commentary on this one, but it is amazing how easy and prevalent “throw away” is in this culture. I was reminded of it again today. I come home to my wife wanting me to look at the Kirby vacuum cleaner. What in the world am I doing with a Kirby vacuum cleaner, you ask? Once upon a time I was stuck in credit limbo. I had no credit, not having chosen for many years to have a credit card, so I couldn’t get credit. It is similar to being unemployed or under employed because you are over qualified for any menial job. They figure you will leave soon since you have a college degree so they won’t give you a job. Or it is even more like trying to get a job and being told that you must have two years experience but you can’t get experience without a job. Anyway, the carpet brush attachment activates a clutch that may either be turned on to drive the vacuum forward and back or shifted into neutral so you get a better workout. If it is broken throw it away, right?

This reminds me of ever so many appliances that are or once were in my places of residence. Take for instance the dryer we still use. The temperature selection switch “tore up”. I don’t know why since my wife, as far as I knew, never used that switch. Without it the dryer didn’t dry. I went to the parts store of the local appliance dealer. “That part is no longer available.” You mean to say that I have to buy a new dryer for $300+ for a $7.99 switch that only cost the manufacturer $0.87 to make? That reminds me (We’ll never get through this story if I keep regressing.) of when I used to rebuild aircraft alternators, generators, starters, and magnetos. Did you know that most of the time an alternator that has quit functioning only needs less than $10 in parts to fix it but about 20 years ago the manufacturers disallowed any but the licensed manufacturer re-builders to get the parts so that they could charge customers anywhere from $80 to $200+ for re-manufactured alternators? Back to the dryer. I am a scrapper and scrounger from way back. Call it a survival technique if you like. I began asking around and calling every yellow page appliance repairman in my county and the next. I found a retired (figures) appliance repairman who has a shed out back of his house with 50+ washers and dryers that he sells the parts off of. After some friendly talk and a few pointers as to where the appropriate models reside, I crawled into the shed and sampled 6-8 dryers for temperature switches. As you might imagine, several were missing, probably due to failures of dryer switches on other dryers of that make. I used my adjustable jaw wrench to extract several switches only to find out from the owner when I crawled back out that part number switch would not work, a fact I suspected with four electrical connection prongs instead of three (I love talking trash in run-on sentences.) Undaunted, I crawled back in and extracted that last switch (of course it was; I wasn’t going to keep taking them out after I found the one I needed.). But when I brought it out and checked the resistance, it operated backwards. The owner said it didn’t matter. To this day the switch sits pretty much unused with a paper label reversing the original markings and attached by clear packing tape. The dryer works fine. We call that jury rigging (Look it up.).

I guess I was desperate to write a blog entry this month and didn’t want to expend the energy of thinking about some of the deeper and more difficult issues going on at the moment. I hope you relate to this desire to fix things and not waste money and material. It is not always possible, but it feels good when you can. For me it is a matter of stewardship and finances. Maybe I’ll tell how I’ve revamped the dishwasher 3 times with small parts for less than $35, or recently replaced a broken coupling on the clothes washer. Actually, it isn’t fun when you are troubleshooting the problem of replacing the part in an awkward spot, but it sure is satisfying afterwards. Did I say that already?

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