So… tonight I’m taking a refresher course on the good ol’ framing square.
It is like a carpenter’s App from the past.
This square was my grandfather’s. I never met him, but I have his square. I don’t know if he used it for cutting a bird’s mouth into a rafter or to throw at game like a boomerang, but here it sits.
I’ve been working at the surface rust with one of Liz’s scrubbers (good thing she’s on vacation) so to make out the table of rafter lengths stamped into the steel. This bit of inscription in the alloy does all the work of the Pythagorean Theorem (within the range of rooves) and will even wait a couple of decades under some oxidation for you to rediscover it. Generally I draw a picture of my projects, find a calculator and work at it sideways and backwards, and then cut the first board wrong, have a worried cup of coffee, and take my hat off/scratch my head until bystanders start talking about relatives with OCD. But this time, with my freshly brightened-up square, I’ll be ready to make some sawdust.
Recently, I’ve been listening to the all-too-familiar complaint that we learn things in school that we never use. Far too often, juveniles hang this banal declaration on any door that they have trouble opening (the sign says, “Pull”). If you find that you are living a life without using even basic math, then you’re probably doing it wrong (I’ll admit I’ve thought of applying this mantra while being interrupted from reading a Wendell Berry book in chemistry class by a somewhat testy Dr. Roethlisberger… In my defense, on the first day of class he explained his theory of a diesel engine “running on glow plugs” and I vowed to ignore him as much as possible.).
Proportions, percentages, and fractions are very important, whether baking a cake or making a couple of ton of (awesome) chicken feed. Independent minds need to know how to tweak the recipe to make 500lb of high-protein starter for the turkey poults and then add more stuff to make a suitable feed for hens. Or you could throw your hands in the air, forget about the non-GMO quest and buy some garbage in a glossy plastic bag from the feed store that has ingredients listed that would challenge a chemistry major’s vocabulary…I do have fun being a bumpkin.
It is distressful to hear of bright minds shirking off the sciences, and equally so the disregard of the humanities.
“Why do I have to read this crap that chronicles the human condition, provides a shared experience, and helps me find our place in the world?”
“History is boring. When do we get to the really good war parts?”
“I don’t need any of this because I’m going to be a weatherman.”
OK, you’re right. You are dismissed, Johnny…
I wonder if we are equipping ourselves with a good general knowledge as a foundation, or if we are so hurried to scuttle off to specialized success that we ignore the basics.
I would reckon that 50 or 60 years ago a simple task such as effectively using a framing square would not have been outside the realm of thought for a person. Now, around here, if you need two boards nailed together, you’d better call an Amishman, preferable a whole crew. It is pitiful. Can’t figure material, can’t drive a nail, can’t use a square, but Man what a credit score (I think I’ll start a support group called, “Embracing your Negativity”)!
I suppose there are a limited number of folds in the brain to store knowledge, and Pythagoras lost just out to “twerking.” Better luck next time, sucker.
Oooh, I just got a text!…