Monthly Archives: July 2012

Fun…and maybe educational – Tinkering

When you homeschool, along with trying to remember the math you actually never knew, you are confronted with loads and loads of free kid time. Realistically, you can cover what kids need to know by the time they hit Grade 7 with about 2 hours a day four days a week. Which leaves a huge amount of time for other things. And the Internet, and the X-Box.

I have no problem at all with screen time. If anything my older son learns far more from the Internet than he learns from me. But, and it is a big but, watching Cracked twelve hours a day is not on. Happily, Sam likes “the News” and, more importantly, has discover the rich vein of handyman, fine woodworking, Mr. Fixit videos. My lovely wife no longer even bothers to ask me to fix stuff around the house – a skill I entirely lack – she goes right to her father (Mr. Household “to do list”)”s grandson. We are all much happier.

These days it is all about compressed air. When an 11 year old finds a free compressor you know you are going to be inflating all manner of things. The best part of the free compressor was that it was hand built about forty years ago. It was a straight plug in so it needed a switch. And so Sam found a light switch, an electrical box at the dump and got to work. (His poor mother is now riding her bike to the Oak Bay trash transfer station daily (about three miles there and back) so Sam can strip useful objects and cart them home. Susan does not go to the gym.)

I’ve had to lash out for a couple of fittings and an air hose – call it $20.00 – but Sam is a born, what? recycler, scavenger, McGyver? He calls guys up who are advertising air tools on UsedVictoria and convinces them that they should deliver their wares for, effectively, nothing. He adapts bits of old tubing and cast off pressure gauges to calibrate his primary pressure gauge.

“Dad, I’ve got an oil leak.” or “Mum, I have to drain the water.” are good for a couple of hours of tinkering.

Tinkering is a bit of a lost art. Figuring out how to get a good seal or the right fitting is not something you can teach. It is about exploration. Getting stuff wrong until you get it nearly right.

For Sam this is about the compressor. But it could just as easily be a radio or a bit of software.

Now tinkering is enhanced. Instead of having to rely upon your mechanically challenged parents for useless advice, you hop on Google and look it up. Compressor leaking oil, type in that search string for the wisdom of the masters.

Knowledge is changing very quickly. And the means to acquire knowledge are changing even more quickly. Teaching children you quickly realize that the general principles contained in a printed book are not nearly a match for specific, useable information which you can get on the net. No longer do you have to tinker blind, whether you are eleven or somewhat older, you can instantly find the exact information (and often a video) about what you need.

I can’t imagine schools in the conventional sense managing to last much more than a decade as anything other than baby sitting services – and, hey, I suspect there is an App for that.

$850 to go

Mark and Connie over at FreeDominion are within $850.00 of their $14,000 goal.

They need our help to preserve freedom of speech online.

Go to and give what you can.

UPDATE: Made it – $14,000 and change!

Very Cool…Or, in fact, Cold

Google Streetview goes to Scott’s – rather palatial – Antarctic Hut.

Sure it is a stunt…but a damned good one.

The Trees Were Right…They had to Go

hide the declineRealScience provides a look at the temperature shenanigans. 

For the Mann Hockey Stick to be promoted two things had to happen. The temperature record had to be cooled in the early part of the 20th century and those beastly trees with their “divergence problem” had to go.

Which is exactly what happened. Go read the whole thing.

And for the short version – read Steve Goddard here.

The Pain in Spain

2-Year Yield + 36.5 basis points to 7.007%
5-Year Yield + 12.5 basis points to 7.717%
10-Year Yield + 2.7 basis points to 7.648%

Bond junkies will note a mildly inverted yield curve. The rest of us should be looking at the headline number of over 7%.

The Euro is, agonizingly slowly, unwinding. Sovereign debt is being priced in Greece (no sale), Portugal, Italy and Spain as if these nations were not in the Euro. Which strongly suggests  that the markets no longer believe that the Euro is going to last much longer.

Which, realistically, it shouldn’t. It was not a terrifically good idea in the first place to hitch disperate economies together in one currency.  Jane Jacobs once wrote that a single currency across a variety of regional economies was rather like one set of lungs shared between a person running, one sitting, one walking and one asleep – no one would be getting optimal performance.

The great thrust of the 20th century was towards ever larger units. The EU, the Euro, NAFTA, ASEAN and so on. In so far as these were trading units they might create efficiencies (though at what cost?). But closer integration makes less and less sense as high speed communications and increased computer power, reduce the need for the economies of scale promised by ever larger units.

I suspect that the thrust of the 21st century will be away from large units and towards small, efficient, states and regions. At smaller scales it is possible to innovate and experiment. Pushing power away from the “center” towards the edge means that it is much closer to the people and much closer to their specific concerns rather than the amorphous aggregate which somehow satisfies no one.

Ambrose on Spain

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Wow, linked from Five Feet of Fury, Mark Steyn and Watts Up With That.

Poor Mann likely had no idea that he was walking into the Steyn buzzsaw. Could not happen to a nicer guy.

Good Advice…

I am not entirely sure that Neil Gaiman makes “good art”; but his instincts are very right indeed.

Cage Fight!

The little shit will probably pull it down so here it is:

I have formally demanded a retraction of, and apology for, this defamatory piece about me by National Review. I have retained counsel to pursue my legal rights.

The guy who wrote the offending article comparing the Penn State “investigation” of the football coach’s predilections for lads to the “investigation” of Michael Mann’s scientific practices….our old friend Mark Steyn. I commented at What’s Up With That:

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.”

Joy, joy, happy happy! I’ve always thought Mann was a tone-deaf idiot but never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be dumb enough to sue, or even threaten to sue, a guy as bright as Steyn.

And, on balance, I rather suspect that Mann has absolutely no clue just how clever Mark actually is. We Canadians have had a ring side seat to Mark destroying the whole edifice of “speech regulation” in Canada. He didn’t just win, he and a few other people are directly responsible for the repeal of Canada’s anti-free speech laws.

But the best part is that Mark is wickedly funny. As we have learned, the “climate concerned community” has no sense of humour at all. Long before this goes to Court (as if) Mark will have a jolly excuse to make fun of Mikey.

It will not be pretty. But, Dear Lord, it will be fun.

Sue Mikey, sue!

I have beer, I have popcorn…Let the Games begin.

Flash Black

You’ve read the story about the black kids flash mobbing a Wal-Mart.

Stuff happens and there have been flash mob incidents as well as “wildings” occuring in the US for a couple of years.

But the Jacksonville flash mob has gained a good deal of mainstream media attention.

So now the question is whether there will be more of this sort of directed riot in US cities.

Copycat flash mobs would hardly be a surprise…especially in an age of twitter, texting and facebook. Sort of Arab Spring with merch.


$5,5664 to go.

Free Dominion has been invited by the Courts to pay Dr. Dawg $14,000 in costs and then litigate the dimwit’s purported defamation – which the dummy apparently republished through a sockpuppet.

Important legal issues are at stake.

Go help Connie and Mark raise the last 6k. Go here and give.

As our old public service union organizing pal knows, there is nothing stronger than the grass roots.

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