The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

My wife sent me an article this week from the New Atlantic about how shop classes are falling by the wayside in North America.  How the information based society tends to look down on blue collar workers and how in the end, it’s just plain bad for all of us.  We’re on a treadmill of consumerism and we’re losing the ability to do it ourselves.   Which would explain a lot of the traffic I’ve been seeing on Yahoo Answers regarding the repair and maintenance of Paintball Guns.

It seems a lot of kids play these days but not too many of them understand how their marker works.  So usually when I talk to them I send them a link to their gun’s manual (the internet is a wonderful thing) and then try to find out where it’s leaking or what it is or is not doing.  I can usually figure out the problem in about fifteen minutes.  Even when I’m in the safe zone at my regular field the number of guys who have no idea about their markers (and I’ll admit, at the field, most players know their guns) is still pretty high.  And as fixing paintball guns is something I do for fun, I like to lend a hand but I’m always disturbed by the lack of mechanical savvy.  First thing I do when I get a new marker is take it apart.  Better to know the ins and outs now than trying to fix it at the field (though to be honest, I bring lots of backup gear).  It doesn’t hurt to understand how something works or to have a reason for why it’s not working.  It’s frustrating that so many things are so poorly made and have such short service lives these days.

I also heard this week that Washington, semi quietly killed the new Moon project.  Choosing once again to rely on private industry to carry the torch forward.  I’m sort of mixed on this one.  Why?  Because NASA has pretty much been a wash when it comes to manned exploration of space.  I blame safety boards for this.  Yes, we need to make it as safe as possible, when we put a man in space for any period of time.  for the most part, the engineering panels do a good job of regulation but at a certain point, we just need to say, “Fuck it,” and press the Go button.

The point needs to be made, NASA is an administration, everything they shoot off or fly is built by outside contractors, Rockwell Aerospace, Honeywell, hundreds of companies.  NASA merely pays the bills and oversees the projects.  Of course on a fixed budget, it’s tough to pick and choose who gets to stay and who has to go.  You go private with that stuff and offer proper incentives for success like heavy lift contracts and exploration bonuses and maybe it makes sense to wrestle the government’s claws from progress.

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 with busted ribs.  Lockheed built the U2 and the SR-71 on their own (and in Secret), you’re telling me that Lockheed Martin Marietta can’t figure out how to build viable shuttle or spacecraft?  Diversify those military contracts a bit.  Hell, give Burt Ruttan a couple of Billion to play with, he’d have us at Mars within ten years and it’d still be as safe as he could make it.

But pass the burnt out torch from NASA’s withered hand, let somebody else light the flame again.

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