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Archive for April, 2010

So you worked for NASA….

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I was reminiscing about a “professional disagreement” I had with a fellow a once. At one point another man chimed in that the fellow I was talking with had worked for such-and-such; a company whose authority on the issue we were discussing couldn’t be argued.

I was reminded of a television programme I saw as a boy where a character, who was a bit of a thicko, made some remark about how they did things when he worked for NASA. When the question came as to what services he provided for NASA he replied, “every time a light bulb burned out I’d get my ladder…” It’s sort of fit the situation and I felt bad for actually laughing out loud when I had the thought; I thought I was a better person than that.

Anyway…Working for a reputable company says something about you for sure, but it doesn’t say nearly as much as what you actually produce.

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Grinders and magic smoke.

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I was introduced to the concept of magic smoke. Ever heard the joke? The way it goes that electric components of all sorts work because of the magic smoke they contain; if you do something to let the smoke out then it stops working. I’m reminded of it because I let the smoke out of an old grinder just the other day.

…and speaking of grinders, isn’t if funny how guys always seem to send a five inch grinder to do a seven inch grinder’s job? When I was an apprentice, the only 5″ grinder that the company owned was issued to the senior journeyman and I think he only had it because he threatened to quit if he didn’t get it; the rest of us were issued 7″ grinders.

The bigger grinder sure removes metal in a hurry compared to the smaller ones, but you sure start feeling the weight pretty fast. A couple of us actually brought in 5″ grinders of our own for doing smaller grinding jobs. It was always amusing to watch the boss tap some fellow on the shoulder and tell(yell at) him that if he was going to be paid by the hour then he needed to use a bigger grinder. The fellow would pull out the 7″ and get back to work…until the boss went back to the office; then out came the 5″ grinder again. It would happen a couple times each week.

The boss had a point to make and I agreed with him but it was irrelevant because he was the boss. Those 5″ grinders are easier on the arms but don’t cut like the 7″ models and just don’t last as long as the larger ones when used continuously.

If a lot of grinding work comes my way then the compromise for my helper(because it sure as Hell won’t be me doing it) will be the use of pneumatic grinders. The electrical bill for compressing the air to run a pneumatic grinder will be higher than with an electric grinder(by a factor of about 5 in my experience) but the grinders themselves will last longer, run cooler (downright cold, actually), and weigh much less. I’m sure the comparison between electric and pneumatic angle grinders has been analysed to death elsewhere but unless a large grinding job falls in my lap I’m not going to do the reckoning and research any time soon.

I’ll bet that if all a fellow does is grind all day then his increased comfort, productivity, and tool life will likely offset the cost of producing compressed air.

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Irony is more than how my tap water tastes.

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I was just watching a news story about secondary school students in a nearby community protesting budget cuts in front of the school board office and expressing concerns that this could compromise their education.

What made me laugh is that they walked out of class to protest and were in fact truant while protesting this threat to the quality of their education. Don’t get me wrong, I think activism is a great way to bring attention to issues, people should stand up and be counted, and I’m thrilled that these students are publicly expressing their concern but the irony of this situation amuses me.

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Talking Shop…and a welder playing sociologist.

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

When you get coworkers together, they often talk shop and it can be tiresome. Invariably it comes down to at most a half dozen general topics. My experience in welding shops shows that it comes down to bitching about the boss, debates about what welding process best suits a situation, reminiscing about a particular work experience, a crash-to-pass race car that’s being built, or aspects and issues of past and current projects.

This last couple weeks I’ve been welding for a crew of groundskeepers so I’ve been taking my lunches with horticulturists. Their shop talk is as limited in scope as anybody else’s but since it’s new to me, I find it very refreshing. Talk of apples, orchid sightings while hiking, work on their gardens…but to my surprise, no bitching about the boss.

What really surprised me was that amongst the groundskeepers there seemed to be a general lack of pretense and bitchiness. I didn’t hear a single instance of somebody blowing their own horn; just a quiet confidence and a desire to do their work.

I’ve been thinking about what gives me this impression. Their group process has all of the aspects you’d find elsewhere but it doesn’t seem to get in the way of getting work done like it did in other place where I’ve worked. There was good esprit de corps in their department, influenced by many variables relating to how they’re managed, but I’ve seen and experienced this elsewhere.

When I think of these groundskeepers in comparison to other crews I’ve worked with, the most obvious difference to me was their low turnover; their jobs are secure. It seems to me that welders are, generally speaking, one of the more itinerant trades and I suppose that because of this, our groups seldom gets too high up Cog’s Ladder.

….or perhaps this sense of wonder I’m experiencing is the natural reaction of a reprobate observing normal people.

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As seen on television.

April 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I was passing by the television as The Big Bang Theory was on and saw the protagonists standing around an upturned woofer with looks of delight on their faces while watching a glob made of cornstarch and water jumping about on top of it as music played. I always thought the characters were idiot savants, but maybe they’re just plain idiots.

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Attached to an old truck.

April 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve put one of my old work trucks up for sale and find a little bit of panic rising inside of me.

I’ve had this truck for about ten years and it has served me well, but I don’t find myself using it much anymore. My thought is to get rid of it and make some space in the driveway, but I find myself worried that I’ll need it again….never mind that I have another truck.

It’s funny that it’s so hard to let go of it. There are no fond memories attached to the truck. No children were driven home from the hospital in it…for that matter, no children were conceived in it either! It’s just seen a lot of toil, long days, and it owes me nothing.

So I wonder why I’m sad to see it go….but not sad enough to set aside the driveway space to store it?

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