In ecology there are species known as “keystone species.” They are animals that have an impact on the ecosystem that is disproportionate to their population. I’m starting to think that working with our hands is a keystone skill. It has a disproportionate impact on our inventory of skills. When fixing something, we are forced to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills. To focus on both the general, and how the particular interacts with the general. This is to say nothing of honing skills of observation, organization, imagination, and increasing curiosity. Those skills improve and get applied to other areas of our lives that have nothing to do with building or making.
In his book “Shop Class as Soulcraft” Matthew Crawford examines the notion that when things we posses are mysterious to us, their internal operations opaque, we put them in a position to exert mastery over us. I can’t help but think Motomethod and other “maker shops” like this are tapping into a primal urge to take back some control over our lives. It seems to me that the real benefit of this urge is how our lives are enriched through the improvement of our skills.
Helicopters are spendy. Like, burns 30 gallons per hour of Jet A, a $4.25 a gallon spendy. Don’t forget the pilot, who doesn’t come cheap. Not to mention aircraft maintenance costs. When your aircraft flies based solely on a deal made with Beelzebub, you don’t skimp when it comes time to pay the bill. The Prince of Darkness isn’t a fan past due notes.
Motorsports has been undergoing a revolution in coverage with the development of remote control camera platforms. As broadcasters balked at the cost of renting traditional rotorcraft camera platforms, the RC operators stepped in and filled the gap. Providing not only a closer look at the action, but doing so cheaper, and safer than traditional options. We’re not quite to the point where an RC camera platform can track a car as well as a helicopter, but it is on the horizon.
But while all of that is cool, what really impresses me about this technology is that it is essentially grass roots. This has all been driven by enthusiasts building in there garages and basements on weekends. They have been solving really complex problems like multirotor harmonic balancing because one night while sitting in front of a TV they thought, “somebody should make a…” A few minutes, or hours, or days later they realized that they were somebody, and it was time to get to work. Hours later, after teaching themselves fabrication, materials sciences, and mechanical engineering, multicopters were born, and a new facet to the broadcast industry was discovered.
Adrian Newey is, without doubt, an engineering genius. In a field full of geniuses, he stands out as the smartest guy in the room. Racecar Engineering has done a retrospective of his race cars up to now. Even if you’re not a racing fan. Even if you couldn’t possibly care less about Formula 1, it is worth reading the article if only to note the number of times the word “fired” appears.
This isn’t the only checkered CV of a highly successful person. I can’t help but admire the kind of persistence that borders on obstinate. Time and time again someone told him he wasn’t quite good enough. Time and time again he would pick up the pieces, move on, and then beat the pants off the people who just fired him. That takes sand.
1. Stove fuel: Maybe you have an alcohol-burning camp stove, or your made one like the beer can stove in our survival by beer gallery (link). For that type of stove, you’ll need some very high-proof liquor (like Everclear, if you can legally get it where you live) to efficiently cook your food and boil your water.
2. Wound management: It’s going to hurt, but alcohol could be used as an aggressive disinfectant on topical wounds. This is a pretty rough way to practice field medicine, but it is on the table as a last resort.
3. Pain management: From broken legs to broken hearts, lots of folks find solace in a sip or two of the good stuff. It’s not a perfect pain killer, but it may be all you have in a pinch. Just make sure your booze is the drinking kind. Denatured alcohol, rubbing alcohol, methanol, and many other alcohol products are toxic.
4. Bartering: Whether you drink alcohol or don’t, there will always be plenty of folks around who will want some. In the event of a prolonged disaster, alcohol (along with cigarettes and caffeine) could be a very valuable trade good.
5. Gear disinfectant: You could disinfect your gore-covered knife, the dirty drinking hose to your Camelback, or a host of other filthy things with some high-test booze. Think of it as hand sanitizer for everything else.
And if you’re not going to use it as a stove fuel, it helps start a fire. Although alcohol stoves are lightweight and really clean-burning, meaning that if you’re desperate, they can also be used to heat a tent, provided you don’t have candles (and cook in it in a pinch). You can spend money on alcohol stoves but they’re simple enough to make, obviously, out of you know, trash.
But they lose points for not listing the best reason: getting blotto in the woods. Duh.
Every year about this time I go on a Frank Lloyd Wright kick. I’m sure this is some sort of Pavlovian response connected to the holidays. When I was a kid we used to drive by a home designed by the controversial genius en route to my grandparent’s home. The owners of that particular Wright house would pull out all the stops in their impersonation of Clark Griswold if he had any sense of style or class. We’d ohh and ahh while we sweltered in the back seat wearing our itchy Sunday best clothes.
Every holiday season those muck-sweat stained memories resurface and prompt me to go surfing around the series of tubes looking for FLW homes. This year I found this article about the restoration of both the Muirhead House and the Westcott House (featured in the video link). I really shouldn’t watch this sort of thing because it makes me think A) I can learn carpentry and B) I should buy an old house an restore it.