Monday, November 27, 2006

Did we have an election?

At one time I considered myself fairly politically astute, and tried to keep tabs on the political happenings in this country, but lately I've found myself realizing that it doesn't really matter. If Republicans are still worried about why they lost the elections a few weeks ago (rather than turned to more pressing matters like getting the Lexus serviced, managing their investment funds, or getting tickets to see the Nutcracker during the Chrsitmas run), I might suggest that the first step would be to run a candidate. In the 21st district here in Washington, there was a state senate seat and two legislative seats open, and the Washington State Republican Party couldn't be bothered to find a single candidate for any of the three positions. Now granted this is a pretty liberal (OK not 'pretty' but rabidly) part of the state, but if they are gonig to play games of running for "competitive" districts, they can kiss my hind-end. I've been debating whether running no one is better or worse than the crazy old man, "Cowboy" Wilson, who ran last election under the Republican ticket for my district.
But back to the larger question, Does it matter?
People are fond of huffily stating "If you don't see the difference between Reps and Dems, then you aren't looking close enough." But actions speak louder than words. Most Rs support military adventurism in support of "freedom" and "stopping WMDs", while Ds support military adventurism in support of "humanitarian intervention" and "stopping genocide". Rs want soulless corporate bureaucracy to govern our lives, Ds want soulless UN bureaucracy to govern our lives. Rs give you the bread and circuses of piddling tax cuts and professional sports, Ds give you the bread and circuses of "entitlements" and MTV.
Aside from the war in Iraq, the real hot-button issue that divides the two parties is abortions, and for all the screeching about Ds being the party of death, what exactly have the Rs done to limit abortion since gaining a majority? The silence is deafening (and people who brag on GWB's Supreme Court nominations distinctly underwhelm me).
My father was fond of muttering that this country needed another revolution, though with the state of the nation, we'd probably end with a government as stupid and corrupt as this one. It's a shame there is no New World to sail off to.

We're not building a piano

Due to a paltry few inches of snow here in the Puget Sound region, everything is shut down, and i have a respite from boatbuilding school for the day. I have been living with my Slovak hillbillie brother James and his family on the Indian Reservation, during the school week in my 12' travel trailer, and coming home to Edmonds on the weekends. I was home Wednesday night for the Thanksgiving holiday break, and due to the snow yesterday, I've had an extra day tacked onto my holiday (though after spending a winter in Fairbanks, and equipping myself with a AWD Subaru, I find the "winter storm" less than impressive).
So far boat school has been everything I could want and more. There is something very refreshing about learning an actual trade, and my progress is measured in what I actually produce, rather than the ambiguous nature of most "intellectual" schooling. No amount of rhetorical shell-games will keep my instructor from telling me to re-make my dovetail joints because they do not fit together well. When I was a boy my father would often excuse little errors in home repair projects by saying "Well we're not building a piano." Learning boatbuilding, it has become clear that there are many cases where the work must rise to the standard of building a piano, though our instructors are also quick to point out places where "eyeballing it" will suffice, and in fact, be a wiser choice.
When school begins again tomorrow we will be finshing up our lofting projects (the drawing out of a boat in three views full-sized on a floor, and hopefully by next week we will be building our first boats, 12' flat-bottomed skiffs constructed by each of the three instruction groups.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the skills I am learning is the ability to accurately construct wooden structures with few, if any, square corners or right angles. Aside from the obvious application to boat-building, I'll have, if nothing else, first-class finsh carpentry skills. Aside from our practice joinery, we've made a dovetail jointed tool-box, a wood bodies smoothing plane, spar gauges, bevel gauges, bevel boards, a lathe project (mine was making a belaying pin to a pattern out of black locust), and a half-hull model of the boat we drew in drafting class. Aside from a miniumum of power tools, almost all the work has been with hand tools. Even the drafting was done with pencil and paper- much to my delight and manual drafting is something I really enjoy. Aside from the tradition focus of the school, the instructors have told us that they want us to be able to do our jobs with a minimum of tools, and what might be primitive conditions.
All in all the work is a refreshing change, being able to work with God-given materials in an act of subcreation is an agrarian's dream come true. Furthermore, such an obscure trade as wooden boatbuilding is so far outside the mainstream of the corporate-commercial world, as to be largely insulated. The impression I have gotten is that in this field things are still done as they were, and there is a pride in craftsmanship and respect for the craftsman. My only regret is that there is very little that is done in wooden boatbuilding that is affordable to the "workin' man". Most people who work in the trade would not be able to afford the boats they build. The amount of labor involved and the price of wood being what it is, I will have to resign myself to catering to wealthy clients.