Be A Guy

Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Gladwell’

Nothing Stands Alone- 1493 and Cusp Events

In Fleshed Out Tweets, Thoughtful- Items I'd Like you to Read on September 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

Luckily for you I’ve finished this book; anyone who has ever received one of my tweets or is in my FB circle this week is aware that I am obsessing about 1493 by Charles Mann. The breadth of Mann’s vision and ability to see connections awes me. I don’t think there was ever a moment during which my mind could have grasped the universality of the globe as he does. While this is a pedantic historic account of the past 500 years; us hippies can see a little bit of the Gaia myth and dumb kids can feel the creep of The Lion King’s Circle of Life and Avatar’s what-ever-the-hell it was. Those of you who have had the misfortune of being subjected to my lecture on Cusp Events will understand that I understand that Columbus visitation to the Western Hemisphere to be the singularly most important Cusp event of the past 500 years.

My vision of how the outcome of history is shaped will be forever by 1493. Unfortunatly, i’ve also recently read Outliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell and I’m in dire danger of becoming a Calvinist. Gladwell and Mann both tell tales of predestination that could adversely affect my ability to believe that much of what I endeavor to do will have much impact on the eventual outcome. Or maybe I’m going to have to take my paranoia up a notch and look even further ahead.

His prior book, that I read, “1491” describes the Western Hemisphere just prior to interaction with Europeans. The gist of 1491 is that European technology and numbers were insufficient to conquer the native peoples of the Americas at the end of the 15th century. The number of indigenous peoples and the sophistication of their cultures far exceeds what was taught in school when I was a kid. The myth of virgin wilderness in the Americas is just that a myth. The forests of the amazon and of North America were carefully tended agricultural plots, maintained by a large and advanced population exploiting and husbanding both animal and plants. Had the Indians been resistant to European Diseases such as Small Pox the Europeans would have barely made a toe hold and would have stacked up on the shores as isolated trading ventures. It is entirely possible that in time Europe could have mustered the forces to invade, however in the interim the exchange of trade goods and specifically weapons would have rapidly diminished the European advantage.

1493 is a careful analysis of “unintended consequences” of the “Columbian Exchange.” Far reaching it offers up new explanations of “the Little Ice Age“, Chinese isolationism and African Slavery in a suddenly globally connected world.


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In Be a Guy, Cat Skull Studio, Tool Kit, Work on July 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I was an outlier in an arcane art- hammering. Mostly nails, but I busted a lot of things with a hammer and have driven many stakes and fence posts.I can tap down the concave in Japanese chisels and plane blades.I can peen bolts to hold forever and set saddle rivets. I’ve driven a few nails in hooves and hammer forged tools and implements in iron and steel.

I own dozens of hammers; from 10 pound mauls with 30″ fiberglass handles to 200-year-old upholsterer’s tack hammers. 28 oz waffle faced framing hammers and rig axes. Shake axes and dry wall hatchets. Ball peen hammers of all weights. Shot filled, rubber and wooden mallets. Steel handled Estwings and a nifty Tim Allen with a wooden doe foot handle. Curved claw and ripping claw. Shop sledges with jury rigged pipe handles and a 22 oz trim hammer on which I fit an 18″ hatchet handle.

I have hammers with friction grooves, magnets and spring-loaded ball bearing gizmos designed to allow the mechanic to start the nail with an awkward reach. While I eschew novelty hammers- I’ve driven more than a few staples with the hammer on a fence tool.

My grandfather taught me to drive nails in workbench top projects in a front moving circular method that I’ve never seen anyone else use and only use as a trick.

I taught myself to swing a sledge and a maul when my mother decided to stop paying for split firewood. (I also became adept at putting new handles on these instruments of destruction).

I installed kitchens with nails before there were cheap electric screw guns and cheaper phillips head screws.

I’ve driven Jesus Spikes on log cabins and pushed wire brads into picture frames.

I set a million roofing nails w/ one tap in a million 3-tab shingles and the same goes for 8dHG’s on cedar shake roofs, masonite siding and T111.

I know how to shake roof barbs in a stripper and I can bundle and align a handful of commons while lighting a cigarette.
I know 6d on cedar shingle siding and 4d on asbestos siding.

I’ve hammered the driver on flooring machines to cover an acre.

I still feed nails with an odd under hand hold that has my fingernails towards the work which exposes less chance of busting a fingernail. (Another aside I believe in and use the practice of melting through a fingernail with a red hot nail to relieve a blood blister.)

When I started framing houses, California style, it was all about driving 3 1/4″ 16d (penny) Cement Coated Box nails– box nails have a smaller shank than common nails. Like the big boys I could soon knock them home with one swipe. I pioneered, or invented, the technique of simultaneously driving two framing nails to pull crowned boards into alignment. There are dozens of guys who would still think of me when they use this trick I taught – if anyone still used nails.
I drove thousands of pounds of finish nails into trim. Turning the point to cut and not split was second nature to me. I could drive a nail flush without leaving pecker tracks and bring a nail set into play without fumbling the nails in my hand. Someone taught me the trick of setting the head of a common nail on exterior work with the head of another nail held sideways and extended that technique to breaking the skin on hardboard siding. I figured out it is more effective to clip the points off nails, rather than try to blunt them for a board end where splitting is a concern. I’d like to think there are dozens of carpenters who still carry Klines after seeing that trick.

I dumped a handful of clothes washing powder into 50# boxes of framing and drywall nails to make them easier to set. I greased trim nails with soap, wax and in a pinch by rubbing a 4d along the side of my nose, or an 8d through my hair. I now know this lubing significantly effects the nails holding power.

When I first hung drywall blue ring shank nails were the only way to go. The first nails I drove into concrete were cut nails.
I was partial to Plumb brand wooden handled hammers- steel gave me tennis elbow.

Now 90% of nailing on a job of any size is done with tools using pneumatics, gas combustion, electric battery or powder.

Better yet half the assemblies are now screwed together.

My pride in this skill is the same some old boy felt in 1911 because he was adept with a buggy whip.

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